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Officers and recordings

Here the trainer Jim O’Dwyer concludes a three-part article on healthcare security officers and filming or photographing on NHS premises – whether of the officers in particular (a common phenomenon faced by front-line security staff generally) or the premises in general. Find out why they are recording, he advises.

(Hospital car park picture by Mark Rowe, taken with permission)

Depending on the circumstances, the person making the recording could be asked to explain why they are recording. They are not obliged to say, but it could be they believe they have good reasons for doing so and when elicited it may be possible to re-assure the person that there is really no necessity to make a recording.

Provide information about NHS Trust Policy

If it hasn’t been possible to convince the person making the recording to stop, the next step could be to inform them the Trust has a statutory obligation to protect the privacy and confidentiality of persons at the premises and that making a recording:

– Is strictly prohibited – to protect against any breach of privacy/confidentiality.
– Constitutes a significant breach of the Trust’s ‘behaviour standards’.
– May result in delay or withdrawal of any treatment they may need.
– Could result in their immediate removal and exclusion from the site.
– Could result in the recording device being seized and retained as evidence of an offence.
– May result in costly civil proceedings by the Trust and/or other parties involved.
– Could result in involvement of the police.
– May lead to criminal charges if the recording is subsequently disclosed to unauthorised parties without appropriate consent from all the parties it features.
– ‘Disclosed to unauthorised parties’ includes any kind of publication on the internet.

It’s preferable, of course, if the Trust’s policy clearly sets out what is expected in relation to recording on the premises and what will/could happen in the event of a deliberate breach.

Referencing the ‘terms and conditions’ in the Trust’s policy can be helpful when dealing with such situations. Even better is, if a summary of the relevant information is produced in leaflet form that can be handed to the person making the recording. Being able to hand a person an official document which confirms the legitimacy of the action you are proposing/requesting can really help to de-escalate and defuse conflict situations.

If the identity of the person doing the recording is known, they could be asked to confirm the details, including their home address. This confirmation of identity and address process sends a powerful message that they are not anonymous and if action is going to be taken by the NHS Trust, they will know who and where to write to.

If the identity of the person doing the filming is unknown, they can be asked to identify themselves, but they are not obliged to disclose it. (They can always be traced afterwards, if necessary.)

More often than not, the low degree of harm associated with recording audio/video on NHS premises will mean the appropriate course of action will be to revert to the Trust’s ‘Unacceptable Behaviour’ policy and report the occurrence accordingly.

How should officers react if they are the target of filming by a patient or a member of the public? If, whilst on hospital premises, officers become aware they, or an incident they are involved in, is being filmed, they should:

– Remain cool, calm, courteous and professional
– Evaluate (and keep in mind) the likely (comparatively low) risk of harm if the filming continues
– Consider applicable legal powers
– Assess the risks associated with preventing the filming continuing
– Consider all available options.

Unless cogent and legitimate reasons exist for preventing the recording from continuing (such as a mobile phone is being used to commit a criminal offence), officers should:

– Not try to prevent or stop filming taking place
– Not put their hand up to cover the camera or their face
– Keep focussed on managing the incident they are dealing with.

If the positioning of the person doing the recording is materially interfering with security action or, by their proximity, they are putting themselves in harm’s way, the person should be instructed to move further away from the scene. However, the instruction should be more precise than just ‘Get back’ or ‘Go away’ and should prescribe a (reasonable) distance, such as ‘Step back at least 10 feet please’. If the original incident being dealt with is ongoing, the person recording could also be tasked to perform a useful function like “please call police and let me know when you’ve done it.” Giving a person a ‘duty’ responsibility which they don’t carry out would show them in a poor light in any subsequent proceedings.

If the person doing the recording is still present at the scene after the original incident has been safely managed, they could be invited to provide their name and address; the reason why they were recording; and their intentions in relation to the recording. However, as previously stated, they are not obliged to answer and so the information should not be ‘demanded’. If practicable, the person should be informed about the NHS Trust’s Policy on Recording (see above). It would also always be open to officers to request a copy of any recording made. The person is not obliged to provide one, but there’s no harm in asking and you never know, they might just agree to do so!

Thereafter, officers should deal with the ‘recording’ incident as per the NHS Trust’s ‘Unacceptable Behaviour’ policy and report the facts accordingly.


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