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FFLM Seeks Urgent Meeting with New Home Secretary to Discuss Standards for Healthcare Provision to Vulnerable Patients

The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine (FFLM) welcomes Prime Minister Theresa May’s appointment of Amber Rudd MP as Home Secretary.

‘We wish her well in her new role,’ said FFLM President Dr Jason Payne-James. ‘The FFLM will seek an early meeting with the new Home Secretary to explain our concerns and those of our clinical partners of the risks posed to vulnerable detainees in police custody and complainants of crime by a system where no minimum standards for healthcare professionals are defined.’

The FFLM wants to reinforce its regret and disappointment at the cancellation of the transfer of police custodial healthcare to the NHS in December 2015. ‘We hope that a reversal of this decision will be made in the light of the concerns of those working in custody,’ Dr Payne-James added.

The FFLM is contributing to the review of deaths in police custody being undertaken by Dame Elish Angiolini, and will stress that the issue of standards and funding for custodial healthcare should be a central issue in her report.

‘We will ask the new Home Secretary to commit to ensuring that any recommendations made by Dame Elish in her forthcoming independent review are fully implemented,’ Dr Payne-James said.  ‘The FFLM remains committed to protecting vulnerable people and raising standards in forensic & legal medicine.’

Note to editors: 

  • The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine (FFLM) of the Royal College of Physicians has the twin aims of developing and maintaining the highest possible standards of competence and professional integrity in forensic and legal medicine. The specialty covers professionals working in three related disciplines: forensic medical practitioners (forensic physicians, forensic pathologists, sexual assault examiners, and child physical and sexual assault examiners); medico-legal advisers; and medically-qualified coroners. https://fflm.ac.uk/
  • The risks of poor or inadequate training of healthcare professionals working in police custody and related settings puts vulnerable complainants and vulnerable detainees at risk. Such risk may be expressed as death or serious harm in police custody, and miscarriages of justice.  This vulnerable group of patient has an over-representation of significant mental and physical health problems, and a high level of drug and alcohol misuse.
  • The FFLM is tasked by Government to provide guidance as to the level of professional and clinical qualification required for doctors or nurses working within these settings.
  • Together with its clinical partners – the United Kingdom Association of Forensic Nurses (UKAFN) and the College of Paramedics (CoP) – agreement has been reached as to the minimal standards for healthcare professionals required to work in the police custodial settings. The three partners have agreed that the minimum competency standard for all healthcare professionals (nurses, paramedics and doctors) working in the fields of general forensic medicine or sexual offence medicine should be either the UKAFN Advanced Standards in Education and Training (ASET) or the Licentiate of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine (LFFLM).
  • Given the decision by the then-Home Secretary in December 2015 to cancel the transfer of this service to the NHS, the responsibility for funding and commissioning healthcare in police custody now lies with Police and Crime Commissioners. The FFLM will work with other relevant bodies to ensure that appropriately qualified healthcare professionals are commissioned to work in these settings, to improve patient safety and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes.