Founding a new police force specifically accountable to the NHS could help manage huge demand from the health service, a College of Policing expert has suggested. Inspector Michael Brown (pictured), who writes the award-winning Mental Health Cop blog, stressed he was not necessarily advocating creating a new force but merely wanted to kick-start debate about which service was best placed to deal with drunks in A&E and reports of assaults on medics.
Policing analyst Bernard Rix said the idea was “worth exploring” and a spokesman for the National Association for Healthcare Security added that a debate on the subject “needs to happen”. National lead for mental health Chief Constable Simon Cole said that in many force areas health facilities were the “biggest callers” to police – but he told PoliceOracle.com that health trusts could already put money set aside for security towards interagency partnership work. In CC Cole’s force – Leicestershire Police – a police inspector is stationed in the local ambulance service control room to pool knowledge with call handlers in cases where there is overlap between the two services.
Insp Brown wrote on his personal blog that the NHS nationally is spending more per annum on security issues than some chief constables spend in certain large policing areas. An internal NHS force funded by the Department of Health would be analogous to the British Transport Police and other specialised forces funded by private companies or government departments outside of the Home Office, he added. The Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police are two other examples.
“Look further afield and you see in the City of New York that the Health and Hospitals Corporation, who run various public hospitals, have their own police force,” Insp Brown wrote. “In addition, the State of New York has police specifically aimed at supporting the public mental health system and the public learning disabilities system.” The idea is also similar to the late night levy scheme operated by some local authorities to get night time businesses to contribute towards the cost of policing in their areas. Surrey’s Chief Constable Lynne Owens is one of several senior figures who have spoken about the strain searching for missing patients with dementia or protecting ambulance workers from violent drunks places on cash strapped forces.
In an interview over the weekend she suggested such incidents should be handled by “in house security”. She told PoliceOracle.com: “In terms of repeat callers to Surrey Police, all four major hospitals in the county feature in our top 10 of all callers.” Welcoming Insp Brown’s blog post, she said there are currently “no shared funding pots” between police and the health service, and that in Surrey alone there are six clinical commissioning groups, adding: “Just negotiating through that mire is very difficult.” If the concept of an NHS police force were to be explored further, a detailed analysis to establish whether the cost of such a move would be outweighed by the benefits, financial or otherwise, would have to be undertaken.
Police Superintendents’ Association President Irene Curtis, who has hailed Inspector Brown’s work with the College of Policing as a “positive step”, said she welcomed a debate on the idea of a Department of Health-funded NHS police force. But she added: “My initial thought is that all the money at the end of the day comes out of the same pot, which is public services.”
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