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Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine Welcomes Proposal to Move Police Custody Healthcare to the NHS

The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine (FFLM) of the Royal College of Physicians of London has welcomed a recommendation in a report that police custody healthcare should move to the NHS.

In July 2015 the then Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP announced a major review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody. The review, undertaken by the Rt. Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini, was handed to the current Home Secretary in January 2017, but published on 30 October 2017.

The report has made over 100 recommendations. With regard to the standards of health care provided to those detained in police custody the report highlights the fact that many are vulnerable due to alcohol or drug dependence, mental health problems, and medical conditions that have often not been addressed. The report notes the Faculty’s repeatedly expressed concerns about poor quality medical care within police custody. An extensive dossier, containing multiple expressions of concern from FFLM members working in the field, was submitted to Dame Elish’s review.

The report highlights the variable amount of training given by private providers to healthcare professionals working in police custody. The FFLM considers that a lack of proper training in custody healthcare has contributed to the increase in deaths in custody, and believes that care provided in a police station should be equivalent to that in the community. For this reason the Faculty welcomes the recommendation by Dame Elish that police custody healthcare should be commissioned by the NHS, in order to improve standards of care, clinical governance and training.

The report clearly states:

“NHS commissioning of healthcare in police custody was due to have commenced in April 2016, but was halted by the Government earlier in the year. This report strongly recommends that this policy is reinstated and implemented.”

The Faculty is extremely disappointed by the Government’s response to this recommendation. The statement that current arrangements [commissioning by Police and Crime Commissioners] “properly ensure that custody health services are able to be prioritised in accordance with the needs of those in police custody” is demonstrably false, as evidence by Dame Elish’s report, and the evidence submitted to it by the FFLM. The FFLM will continue to argue for the transfer of police custody healthcare to the NHS, to protect the interest of vulnerable detainees in police custody.

The report also makes recommendations about better monitoring of intoxicated detainees, the phasing out of police stations as “places of safety” under the Mental Health Act, and a greater role for coroners in cases of deaths in police custody. These are all supported by the FFLM.

The Faculty will give a considered response to the report in due course.

The independent review report can be found here and the Government’s response can be found here.