The new stars of CCTV: what is the purpose of monitoring patients in communal areas of psychiatric hospital wards, bedrooms and seclusion rooms?

Desai, Suki
March 2009
Diversity in Health & Care;2009, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p45
Academic Journal
The recent gradual introduction of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on psychiatric wards to monitor patients incommunal areas, bedrooms and seclusion rooms has taken place without much prior debate. This paper is an attempt to open such a debate by raising a number of concerns. The author suggests that CCTV monitoring is not a wholly benign activity, and that it influences the way in which patients in psychiatric wards are perceived by those responsible for their care, as well as raising ethical concerns about the use of such monitoring. This paper critically reflects on the lack of research on the use of CCTV in psychiatric wards. The author draws on the literature about the use of surveillance cameras in other settings (such as public streets) as well as on psychiatric wards, and also considers other critical surveillance literature, when questioning the efficacy of CCTV monitoring in effectively managing violent incidents on psychiatric wards and in maintaining a 'safe' environment for patients and staff. The paper concludes that CCTV monitoring is fraught with difficulties and challenges, and that 'watching' patients and staff through the lens of a camera can distort the reality of what is actually happening within a ward environment.


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