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screening set to support a safer detention process

New screening set to support a safer detention process for police

Published on: 20 April 2016

People in police custody are set to benefit from a new electronic screening tool to improve detection of physical and mental health problems.

Northumbria Police is introducing the screen today.

The innovative electronic health screen and risk assessment is a computerised tool to help custody staff assess if someone brought in needs medical assistance. The system will have many benefits which will support a safer detention process for police.

The HELP-PC screening tool was developed by a team from Newcastle University, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), a provider of mental health and disability services, and the Metropolitan Police in London.

Detection of health conditions

Dr Iain McKinnon, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Newcastle University, and Consultant Psychiatrist at NTW, who led the design, said: "The difficulty for custody staff is that under stressful conditions they may need to be able to assess whether someone has a condition that needs medical intervention and management whilst in custody.

“To aid them in these sometimes difficult decisions, we have developed and piloted a new computerised health screen and risk assessment tool. It helps with advice in some of the decision making.

“A successful pilot scheme with the Metropolitan Police in London led to us improving the detection rate of health conditions and improved referrals to healthcare professionals."

Northumbria Police have developed a new electronic custody record which will now incorporate the HELP-PC health screen and they will be the first police force in the country to implement this new screen.

Major step forward

The health screen considers a person's mental health, physical health and other vulnerabilities and will signpost to the most appropriate healthcare provider as well as linking to other alerting systems and intelligence already in use by the police.

Chief Inspector Kev Benson, head of the Force Custody Unit, said: "Northumbria Police is committed to investing in technology whether that be mobile devices for frontline officers or the ECR system currently in place in our custody suites.

"We already have qualified nurses in place in custody to ensure our detainees are provided with the best possible care and HELP-PC is yet another tool that will help to inform the decision as to whether police custody is the best place for an individual to be.

"Northumbria Police prides itself on its partnership approach and we want to thank our partners for developing software that will see our custody staff equipped with the best possible tools that will help us to be outstanding in the service we provide."

Dr McKinnon added: "This is a major step forward and other police forces in the UK and Ireland are already interested in implementing this new screen. It represents a huge shift in the way police identify health issues in custody and will make a real difference to people detained there.”

The work was supported by a personal National Institute for Health Research Doctoral Fellowship to Dr McKinnon at Newcastle University and was made possible by the Newcastle Academic Health Partners, a collaboration involving Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University. This partnership harnesses world-class expertise to ensure patients benefit sooner from new treatments, diagnostics and prevention strategies.


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