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County Durham mental health patient hits out at use of ‘invasive’ video monitoring technology on wards

An inpatient at West Park Hospital in Darlington is pushing back on the use of “invasive” video monitoring devices on his ward and in the wider mental health sector.

The man, 20, is on Willow Ward at the hospital, which is a rehabilitation ward. He says he had a day of home leave from hospital, and returned to find an Oxevision monitoring device installed in his room, though it was not switched on. ChronicleLive has chosen not to name the individual to protect their recovery.

He was admitted to hospital under section last year following trauma and self-harm – and also experienced the devices while in an acute ward providing more intensive care under the care of a different NHS trust outside of the North East. He said: “It feels like you are constantly being watched. I was scared to get changed, scared to go to the toilet in case there was an unfamiliar member of staff in the office watching it.”

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  • The devices – produced by health tech firm Oxehealth – are used in mental health settings as a way of monitoring some patient vital signs. The Tees, Esk and Wear NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said its use “enhanced patient safety” and the care provided. The system uses infrared technology to track movement and so can be used to take a pulse reading remotely – while the firm has no say over how it is used by NHS trusts.

    The technology can also flag if a patient is immobile or spends time in, for example, their bathroom doorway, which could be a cause for concern. In cases where a clinician has a concern that they wish to further investigate, they can request a 15 second unblurred snapshot of video footage – the patient told ChronicleLive there was nothing to prevent this snapshot featuring a patient in a state of undress or in an otherwise “compromising” position.

    If the footage is not requested by NHS bosses, it is deleted from Oxehealth’s servers after 24 hours.

    The patient – who is originally from Murton in County Durham – said he felt the technology amounted to an “excessive use of force”. He said that from a patient perspective: “As a result, you have no opportunity for any privacy, which significantly impacts on patient dignity, trust of staff and can feed delusions or trauma around surveillance.”

    He has campaigned against the installation of the devices and joined a campaign group called Stop Oxevision. Though the device in his own room and on the ward has not yet been switched on, he said he was “yet to receive assurances” that it would not be used. He said the rollout of use of the devices on a “blanket” basis should be abandoned and the devices should only be switched on in cases where patients provide informed consent.

    He added: “The vast majority of patients on my ward are on general observations, and the use of these devices is an excessive use of force and an unnecessary invasion of privacy. Any blanket restrictions or enhanced observations should be assessed on an individual basis by a multi-disciplinary team, and should be used for the least amount of time practicable.”

    While the patient said they felt the devices “may have some benefit” in some mental health settings, he did not think this was the case in a rehabilitation setting where the ward’s ethos was to mimic community settings as closely as possible.

    The patient said they had otherwise positive things to say about their care – thanking “fantastic staff” and adding: “They are (individually) very caring and go out of their way to make sure the patients have meaningful therapeutic activities which has been paramount to my recovery.”

    He also said he would encourage others in severe mental health distress to seek help when needed – and highlighted the work done by Chester-le-Street based suicide-prevention charity If U Care Share.

    Beverley Murphy, TEWV’s chief nurse, said: “Oxehealth is an assistive technology in place on some of our wards to enhance patient safety and the care we provide. As well as the ability to remotely measure a person’s pulse and breathing rate, the system can send audible alerts to our staff when a person may need help or assistance. This helps us deliver higher quality care.

    “We continue to listen carefully to the views of our patients, carers and colleagues and are collaborating with them on every aspect of the implementation, to ensure we are using Oxehealth in the best way possible. This includes reviewing consent options. The system is governed by our clinical leaders to ensure it is being used correctly.”

    17 months ago, in response to independent reports recommending improvements to psychiatric care at TEWV after the deaths of three teenagers in a matter of weeks, the trust said it had invested in Oxevision to mitigate risks to patient health.

    How to access support if you need it

    If this piece has affected you and you want to talk to someone, there are helplines and support groups available, many of them 24/7.

    The NHS Choices website lists the following helplines and support networks for people to talk to.

    • Samaritans (116 123 in UK and Ireland) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
    • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
    • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
    • Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity based in England providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
    • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
    • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.
    • If U Care Share is a North East suicide awareness and prevention charity which offers a free and confidential text-support service available by texting IUCS to 85258.
    • James’ Place provide free, life-saving treatment for suicidal men, and those identifying as male, in the North East. Men can refer themselves or be referred by a professional including those working in health and community services, or by a friend or family member.

    In describing the benefits, the trust said at the time: “This system supports clinical teams and enhances patient safety by using contact free, vision-based monitoring technology to monitor a patient’s vital signs and high-risk activity. This offers safe and unobtrusive care, which is respectful of people’s privacy, and we are developing and evaluating our services to ensure we embrace the benefits of this assistive technology.”

    More than 20 NHS mental health trusts – including both of those to run services in the North East, so TEWV and the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust – use Oxevision in some wards, though use tends – so far – to be in acute and intensive care settings. Last year, the i newspaper reported that NHS England bosses had urged NHS trusts to make decisions about using technology like Oxevision in a “patient-centred way”.

    NHS England has been contacted for comment.

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    View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/health/county-durham-mental-health-patient-29012611

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