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Reduce the expense of CCTV protection

Dr Neil Paul says GPs can save money by using IP cameras connected via cable or WiFi to the surgery's IT system.

Dr Paul: cameras can help GPs working late to feel more secure (Photograph: iStock)
Dr Paul: cameras can help GPs working late to feel more secure (Photograph: iStock)

Do your receptionists feel safe while working? Has your surgery ever been broken into?

We are all used to seeing CCTV clips on television and every shop and public place seems to be under scrutiny, but has your surgery got CCTV?

Traditional CCTV systems are expensive, requiring customised cabling, special video recorders or, more recently, hard disk recorders and are only accessible from the monitor. If you are considering CCTV it might be worth opting for the latest IP cameras. They run off your network and can utilise existing equipment so will save money.

View from any screen
They also allow you to view what they are seeing from any screen in your practice - useful if the surgery opens late and you want to keep the doors closed.

IPs are digital video cameras that transmit data over a fast ethernet link. They connect to your existing computer network by cable into any computer socket or to a wireless (WiFi) network.

A cable connection is easier to set up and more reliable. The major advantage with WiFi is that the cameras can go anywhere indoors or out if you can get power to them.

Each camera 'talks' to the network and most come with software enabling you to see what they see from any web browser connected to the same network.


The eyeSpy247 camera

I recently bought an eyeSpy247Ext Outdoor WiFi Day/Night IP camera. I plugged it in and initially connected to it by cable. I then went through its software and told it the password for the WiFi network and positioned it outside, within range of the network.

The software on the model I bought (like other IP cameras) includes basic motion detection and it will send information automatically to the internet. This will allow you to see what it is seeing from any computer in the world. The eyeSpy247 (www.eyespy247.com) comes with one year's free connection to this service.

So for only £200 I now have a security camera. Indoor versions suitable for watching waiting rooms or corridors cost around £100.

My only worry is losing the internet connection. But if you have an old PC you are not using or one that can be left on all day, you can get software that allows you to manage several cameras. This makes for cleverer detection of people or objects so should reduce the number of false alarms.

I am playing with one such piece of software called Vitamin D Video. This method usually involves saving video to the hard drive of the machine and Vitamin D Video will send footage to 'the cloud' (virtual internet servers) in case the machine gets stolen. This is all easy to set up for the computer-savvy.

Maximise productivity
In these times of austerity, it makes sense to maximise the productivity of the infrastructure you have. Do not spend a fortune on a traditional CCTV system when, for not much money, you can have a superb and highly flexible system.

From a legal point of view, you need to display a clear sign somewhere on your building that is visible to the public and explains that you are recording public areas.

It is probably worth having a written policy about this that you have shared with your patient panel. Plus, you need to think through some of the confidentiality issues about releasing video that may identify people to, for example, the police.

TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY IP CAMERAS

Pros

  • Much less expensive than traditional CCTV.
  • Simple systems that only need a few cameras and which link into practice IT networks.
  • Can buy a wide range of reasonably priced software for enhanced features.
  • You can monitor video from anywhere in the world.

Cons

  • Work better with a WiFi network which many surgeries do not have.
  • If the practice is on a NHS site, you might need IT department input to join its network. If this is a highly complex network, its firewalls may stop IP cameras functioning.
  • Amateurs installing IP cameras may make mistakes in positioning them for optimal viewing.
  • Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire

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