DOCTORS have accused health chiefs of “Big Brother” monitoring after discovering hi-tech devices underneath their desks.
The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association has written to Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust to object, after OccupEye sensors were found.
The Trust said they were being used to see if workspace was being used and stressed the surveys were not used for monitoring individuals.
But Andrew Jordan, HCSA’s national officer for East Yorkshire said working conditions were bad enough for staff without hospital chiefs “taking a leaf straight from the pages of Orwell’s 1984.”
An anonymous statement from one doctor, given to the HCSA said: “We should be fully focused on patient care, but instead we are spending time worrying about the time and motion data being harvested by trust management.”
Mr Jordan said: “No one saw them put in place; they simply turned up one day and they were under their desks.
“Words such as ‘covert monitoring’, ‘spying’ and ‘Big Brother’ have all been used. Some members have said they have ripped the devices out from under their desks, as have some of the medical secretaries. Feelings are running high.
“(If they are looking at occupancy rates) is the Trust moving to a situation where doctors run round the hospital hot-desking as they do their clinical reports?”
“The Trust would be well advised to invest in approaches to aid recruitment and retention of senior medical staff rather than an approach that alienates them.”
A trust spokeswoman said they had been using the widely-used technology for around a year in line with recommendations by the Department of Health and Lord Carter’s national review into hospital efficiency and savings.
She said staff were normally provided with information explaining the purpose of the survey, adding: “We explain the devices do not record audio or visual elements but are triggered by movement and heat.
“They do not identify who has triggered the device or what they were doing at the time the device was triggered. No personal information is stored on the devices.”
Checks are being made to see whether correct procedures were used in the most recent survey, she added.
She said: “We would stress surveys are not carried out to monitor individuals but to ensure optimum space utilisation and the best use of the public’s money.”
The trade union Unison said the issue has been discussed at a joint negotiating and consultative committee last year.
Consultants and doctors have their own separate committee.
Unison area organiser Karen Towner said she was not aware of any complaints.
She added: “I’d hope if they did have problems they would come to us, but we are not aware of any significant issues around it. I’d understand people’s concerns if they are not made aware of it.
“It’s a technical way of discovering activity at a desk, but that is all it is doing; as far as we know it is not recording any other data.”