Psychiatric wards are a challenging environment for patients. Staff often forget that they work where a person is very often forced to live for an extended period of time. At the best of times, patients on psychiatric wards can feel very restricted, with some being monitored on a one-to-one basis 24 hours a day. It’s also no secret that a number of abuses have been brought to light in the last few years. In particular there was the abuse taking place at the Edenfield Centre, one of the UK’s largest psychiatric facilities.
As if abuse of patients’ rights is not already a significant enough issue, the NHS is now seeking to roll out something called Oxevision in all inpatient psychiatric facilities. Oxevision uses cameras and infrared detection to measure vital signs, monitor a patients movements with their room, and alert staff to anything unusual. It can even tell staff how long a patient has been in the toilet. More information from the people who designed this can be found here.
The first counterpoint to any resistance against this technology is likely to be that patients have to consent to monitoring. My response to this would be that consent only works if you can trust staff. Between the frequent stories of abuse, and the mature of the types of distress patients in psych wards experience, I believe consent is meaningless.
As an Autistic and Schizophrenic individual who has been a psychiatric inpatient, I can tell you that I would not trust staff to honour my consent or lack thereof. The use of oxevision has the potential to make patients feel incredibly unsafe in an environment that is meant to help them.
We also need to consider a patients rights. Both the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act require staff to use the least restrictive option. The use of Oxevision restricts a patients human right to privacy, and thus, their liberty by allowing staff to intervene whenever they see fit. There is a fine line between patient safety and deprivation of liberty.
It is fundamentally wrong for patients to be under 24-hour surveillance in their private space. Patient liberty is already heavily restricted in psychiatric settings. How does the NHS justify this?
This is a flagrant abuse of patient rights, and as with many of the abuses in the psychiatric system, it’s being sold with a helpful smile.