You may have seen my recent correspondence with Government on my review of the impact and operation of the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. In my last letter I asked Government to consider including the NHS as a relevant authority under the Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA). This was borne out concerns that we are seeing more NHS security staff being issued with body worn video (BWV) (in addition to their already significant use of CCTV) due to the fact they are subject to verbal and physical attacks – over 65,000 assaults reported in 2014/15!
Nobody should go to work with the threat of assault as part of their daily working day so I get why some NHS trusts are issuing BWV to security staff. Ministers are of the view that I should continue to work with the NHS as ‘voluntary adopters’ rather than add them to the list of relevant authorities. They cited the work we’ve done with police forces and local authorities to ensure they comply with the code so I’m delighted that Home Office Ministers have faith that we can deliver on the NHS and they’ve written to the Department for Health to help me make inroads in the sector.
However, this still means that the NHS have no legislative mandate to pay due regard to the code which has meant NHS Protect have twice decided not to recommend that Trusts should adopt the code. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an appetite for compliance out there – I spoke at the National Association for Healthcare Security last year and had a really good response. In fact one trust is now considering applying for my third party certification mark.
The Guardian picked up on the correspondence between me and Ministers last week, running a story on whether the NHS should become a relevant authority under PoFA. I think a greater focus on the fact that NHS Trusts must already comply with the Data Protection Act and risk significant fines is important and that was something I touched on in my speech last year but not covered in the article. This is because footage captured by a surveillance camera (which includes body worn video) is personal data and therefore falls firmly within the territory of the Information Commissioner and the DPA and this is set out clearly in their code – In the picture: A data protection code of practice for surveillance cameras and personal information.
That said – if more security guards are using BWV does this mean there are greater risks of an intrusion on an individual’s right to privacy? Where they may be in a vulnerable or distressed situation if they are in an accident and emergency department at a hospital. So, should there be greater scrutiny of the use of surveillance cameras in hospitals by simply completing my self-assessment tool or applying for my third party certification mark? Whilst not a guarantee of complying with all relevant legislation using these tools will help Trusts understand what they will need to do to comply.
I will continue to work with the NHS over the next year to encourage voluntarily adoption of the code and will write back to Ministers after that to update them on progress.