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Searching the Rooms of People in Care Homes Policy

Scope of Policy

This policy applies to registered care services that provide accommodation and care (personal care and/or nursing care) to people who are at risk of harming themselves or others through, for example, alcohol or substance misuse or through the possession of instruments that if used would endanger their personal safety or the safety of others. This will include services that have users who are subject to Mental Health Act provisions. The policy should be used in relation to others that address risk issues, safeguarding, restrictive practices in terms of articles, goods and services a person is/is not permitted to bring into a home and mental capacity.

Aim of Policy

The purpose of the policy is to establish the protocols and procedures that must be followed in the event of it being necessary to search a person who uses services room. This might occur where there is evidence that the person is in possession of substances or instruments that put the person and/or others at risk of significant harm. Such items will have been prohibited from being possessed as laid down in the person who uses services terms and conditions of residence and in relation to their care and treatment plans. However, the service is clear that a search must only be carried out:

Policy Statement

The service recognises that every person who uses services has the right to privacy and must be able to use his or her accommodation as their own. Staff and others must respect a personā€™s need for privacy by, for example, never entering a personā€™s room without their permission in their absence or by knocking when they are present in the room.

However, there may be occasions when it is necessary to examine the contents of a personā€™s room because there is evidence or strong suspicions that an individual could be in the possession illegal substances or instruments that are causing harm to that individual, or could cause harm to other people for whose safety the service also has a duty of care.

To ensure that people who use services are aware of the possibility, the contingency will be written into their terms and conditions of residence, the person who sues serviceā€™s guide, and where indicated by their risk assessment, into individualā€™s plans of care. In every case, their written consent will be obtained as part of their consent to their care and treatment.

Example Statement in the Guide for People in Care Homes

The home will always respect the person who uses servicesā€™ rights to privacy and dignity and as a rule will not enter their rooms without their permission or interfere with their possessions. At the same time the home expects to act in line with house rules and their terms and conditions of residence by not bringing in and keeping in their rooms any illegal substances and objects that could be harmful to themselves and to others if inappropriately taken or used. The home will therefore reserve the right to enter a room if there are strong suspicions or evidence that an individual is concealing dangerous substances and objects, which could put people at risk of being harmed, and carry out a search for them. Such a search will be carried out only if necessary and will always follow strict procedures to ensure that it is carried out with their consent, where this is possible, and without compromising a personā€™s dignity and rights.

Conducting a Search

Where it becomes necessary to conduct a search of a userā€™s room, the person will be informed and their written consent obtained to the particular line of action being proposed. Where it is not possible to obtain the individualā€™s consent because of suspected lack of mental capacity, a ā€œbest interestsā€ assessment and decision-making process will be followed in line with the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

A search will only be carried out without a personā€™s consent if there are strong grounds for thinking that there are immediate significant risks to the safety and security of the individual or others, which make it necessary for the procedure to be authorised. If a person who uses services does not consent, a decision will have to be taken on the necessity in the terms described. A decision to proceed will depend on whether it is necessary and proportionate to the risks that have been identified.

If a person loses control at any time during the process and becomes aggressive or violent, the service will invoke its response to behaviour that challenges, and may need to carry out restraint procedures. The service is aware that such responses could trigger the need for an alert to be made to the local safeguarding adults board.

A search might also be authorised if a person has taken ā€œunauthorised absenceā€, which puts the person and others at risk of harm and the search might produce evidence of their intentions and whereabouts.

The service recognises that the searching of the room of a person who uses the services is an intrusive measure. Staff carrying out the searches must act in a professional manner throughout and show respect for the individual, their feelings and their property. Before any search the person should have the opportunity of disclosing voluntarily the location of any illegitimate substances or instruments ā€” or whatever the focus of the search is.

A search should not be carried out without the written permission of the registered manager or duty manager. Care or support staff are not allowed to carry out a search without the appropriate authorisation.

The individual whose room is being searched will always have the opportunity of being present as an observer (only) and allowed a ā€œfriendā€ (ie someone of their own choosing, who might also be a named advocate for that person) to be present; also as an observer. A person whose room is being searched as a ā€œbest interestsā€ decision will be afforded similar representation.

If staff find any dangerous objects or illegitimate substances which is against the serviceā€™s rules and terms and conditions, they are authorised to remove those items for safe keeping or disposal pending post-search enquiries and investigations.

Only staff who are deemed competent by way of training to carry out a search will do so, and, wherever practical, the search should be carried out by a senior staff member or manager. There must always be at least two staff members carrying out a search; one should be the same gender as the person whose room is being searched.

All staff will be made aware of the risks when carrying out any search process, ie that the person could be hiding an item used to self-harm or intended to be used to harm others, or suspicious or dangerous substances. All staff must be vigilant at all times when suspicion of concealment has occurred to ensure the safety of people who use the services and work colleagues.

If the suspicions are to do with weapons or drugs, the possession of which would constitute a criminal offence, the police should be informed and their advice taken prior to any search. In certain circumstances, the police may seek to carry out the search as part of a criminal investigation. If there are clear risks arising from the evidence, suspicions and search proposals, the local safeguarding adults board should be informed and their advice and guidance obtained. Similarly, if a safeguarding issues arises as a result of a search, an alert will be made without delay to the local safeguarding adults board following the serviceā€™s safeguarding procedure.

Search Procedures

Once the personā€™s consent is obtained or it is considered that there are sufficient grounds for carrying out a room search, the following procedures will apply.

  1. The person who uses services has the opportunity to attend the room search (as described above).
  2. The search is carried out by at least two members of staff who are trained and competent in the procedure, one of whom will be nominated as the lead person; one of whom should be of the same gender as the person who uses services wherever practically possible, and particularly important if the room belongs to a female.
  3. Staff involved will wear gloves and any other protective equipment that is required to carry out the search properly and effectively in line with the risks that are involved (as determined by a pre-search risk assessment).
  4. The search will be conducted in a systematic fashion, for example, starting at one side of the room and working to the other.
  5. To ensure that nothing is missed, the lead staff member will start, with their colleague following and searching the exact same area as the lead person. Staff thus following each other around the room and do not search separate areas.
  6. The search will be thorough, from top to bottom, ensuring that, for instance, the tops of wardrobes/shelving are searched, as well as drawers, cupboards, under beds, baggage, etc.
  7. All items in the room will be replaced as originally found, except any dangerous or banned items, drugs or alcohol, which will be removed and disposed of.
  8. The implications of the search findings will be subject to further enquiry and investigation in the light of any discovery. If a person who uses services is found to be in breach of their terms and conditions, they could be asked to leave and a period of notice served.
  9. The event will be recorded and subject to a management review in order to determine what has been learned from the individual situation and more generally for the service.
  10. Any items removed will be logged and kept safe pending a decision on their future, which would include the possibility of the items being returned if they prove to be harmless and legitimate.
  11. External agencies such as the local adults safeguarding board and the Care Quality Commission will be alerted or notified if the results or situation presented meet their criteria.
  12. The person who uses services should be informed of their right to make a formal complaint if dissatisfied with the procedure.

Training

All staff will be made aware of the serviceā€™s search procedure and the circumstances under which it might be applied. Staff designated to carry out searches will receive specific training in the established procedures.


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