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NHS Trust stops monitoring women in mental health wards

two nurses looking at a monitor using the oxevision system
two nurses looking at a monitor using the oxevision system Image credit: mobihealthnews.com

The Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust (C&I) has announced it has stopped its 24/7 recordings of mental health patients in their bedrooms because the system is distressing women who have been victims of sexual abuse.

Oxevision is being used to monitor patients around the clock at 22 NHS trusts in psychiatric wards, but the method has come under fire by campaigners saying it can resurface trauma in patients who have suffered sexual assault or childhood abuse.

The system was used in the Rosewood unit, situated at St Pancras hospital which specialises treating women with psychiatric conditions.

Oxevision, which was manufactured by Oxehealth, monitors a patient’s pulse and breathing rate through an optical sensor, but the filming was ceased in November after a number of women became uncomfortable being constantly watched by camera.

The C&I’s women’s strategy group, which includes staff and patients, raised concerns about the system and how it can infringe a patient’s privacy.

 “Women in inpatient mental health services are disproportionately affected by adverse childhood events including sexual abuse and adult experiences of sexual assault and domestic abuse,” the group said in a statement.

“The concerns about Oxevision relating to privacy and dignity and restrictive practice link to these experiences.”

The system has been criticised by Rape Crisis and members of the End Violence Against Women Coalition [EVAW] who say Oxevision should not be used in hospitals, especially with vulnerable patients.

Andrea Simon, director of EVAW, told The Guardian: “Twenty-four-hour surveillance of survivors is hugely and unnecessarily intrusive and it’s no surprise that survivors are saying this is retraumatising. It’s an unthinkable response to those who have experienced a violation of their individual autonomy and control. The support that rape and sexual assault survivors receive must work to counter this power dynamic, not reinforce it.”

Dr Angela Sweeney, an expert in trauma-informed care at King’s College London, said: We know that people who have experienced sexual abuse, assault and coercive control may also have been subjected to the use of cameras, photographic equipment and other recording devices. To replicate this on mental health wards contravenes everything we know about creating safety. Rather than keeping people safe, the use of Oxevision is likely to create fear.”

Jayne Butler, the chief executive of Rape Crisis, added: “We would encourage the NHS and individual trusts to consider how to improve their practice and learn from the decision made at Camden and Islington NHS foundation trust, this should certainly include reviewing [the] decision to pilot this scheme.”

A C&I spokesperson said: “The trust has discontinued the Oxevision pilot following concerns from some service users. While Oxehealth offered to make modifications to the system, we took the decision to end the trial because we felt some service users would still feel uncomfortable.”

A spokesperson for Oxehealth said: “Patients being cared for by staff with Oxevision report an improved sense of safety, less disturbed sleep and an increased sense of privacy.”

An average of 85,000 women are sexually abused every year in the UK.