Press release: FFLM calls for delay to transfer of police custody health care to the NHS

The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians (FFLM), in a letter to the Home Secretary, has called for the NHS commissioning and funding of health care in police custody (planned for April 2016) to be delayed. The FFLM believes that current plans set out by NHS England (NHSE) will lead to a severe reduction in standards of care, and an increase in deaths in police custody.

In the letter to the Home Secretary, the FFLM welcomes her recent announcement of an independent review into police custody deaths in England and Wales, and has recommended that the review should be widened to examine the huge variations in the training and competences of healthcare professionals working in police custody and the need for appropriate qualifications and training. The requirements published by NHSE for the experience, training and qualifications of healthcare professions working in police custody fall far short of those needed to protect police detainees from serious harm.

The FFLM has called for these standards to be rewritten following the publication of the Home Secretary’s independent review, and for the transfer of NHS commissioning for police custody health care to be deferred until appropriate standards have been considered by all stakeholders in the proposed transfer, and the recommendations acted upon. The FFLM has insisted that the UK Association of Forensic Nurses and the College of Paramedics, representing healthcare professionals who provide the clinical and forensic medical needs for this vulnerable population, should also have a defined role in the review.

In a speech to the annual meeting of the UK Association of Forensic Nurses on 26 September 2015, the FFLM President, Dr Jason Payne-James said: “We have grave concerns that unless a realistic, properly informed assessment of the needs of this vulnerable patient group are properly addressed and funded, there is a very real risk that the upturn of deaths in police custody (and associated harms) will worsen. The FFLM has consistently recommended that all healthcare professionals working in police custody should be adequately trained, and that their competence to do so should be validated. The current commissioning specifications approved and published by NHSE are far too weak, leading to a worrying situation in which nurses, doctors and paramedics are now working in police custody without adequate training.”