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

The recent gradual introduction of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on psychiatric wards tomonitor patients in communal areas, bedrooms andseclusion rooms has taken place without much priordebate. This paper is an attempt to open such a] debate by raising a number of concerns. The authorsuggests that CCTV monitoring is not a whollybenign activity, and that it influences the way inwhich patients in psychiatric wards are perceived by those responsible for their care, as well as raisingethical 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 surveillancecameras in other settings (such as public streets) aswell as on psychiatric wards, and also considersother critical surveillance literature, when questioningthe efficacy of CCTV monitoring in effectively managing violent incidents on psychiatric wardsand in maintaining a ‘safe’ environment for patientsand staff. The paper concludes that CCTV monitoringis 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.

Author(s): Suki Desai

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