Police team up with NHS Forth Valley for a potentially life saving initiative

Hospital patients and vulnerable people who go missing should be traced far more quickly thanks to a new partnership scheme Police Scotland and NHS Forth Valley are now operating.

By James Trimble
Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 11:17 am

The Herbert Protocol is a well-established initiative already used elsewhere in Scotland and the UK.

It originated in Norfolk and takes its name after Normandy landings veteran George Herbert, who lived with dementia and sadly died in 2011, after going missing while looking for his childhood home.

According the NHS Forth Valley, the protocol involves a detailed form to be completed with vital information – such as a recent photograph, contact details, routines and significant locations, which can then be provided to police officers and used to save vital time in a missing person inquiry.

The new scheme will allow authorities to trace missing vulnerable people more quickly

Nicola Wood, NHS Forth Valley’s Alzheimer Scotland dementia nurse consultant, said: “It is traumatic when a loved one goes missing, especially if they have dementia. Beyond calling 999, it is sometimes difficult to think what information the police need to help them with the search.

“Often missing people head to locations which were familiar to them or try to find people who mean a lot to them. Having this type of information on record could save their life or prevent them becoming seriously injured.”

The scheme is available to everyone registered with adult care services in the Forth Valley area, including people living with dementia or similar conditions. Families can also fill out the forms for vulnerable relatives living at home who are at risk of going missing.

Superintendent Mandy Paterson, of Safer Communities Forth Valley Division, said: “Speed is of the essence in any missing person enquiry – the longer someone is missing, particularly if they are vulnerable, then the greater the risk to them.

“People go missing for a variety of reasons and when vulnerable people become lost, distressed or disorientated, it is something that causes considerable distress to loved ones.

“The Herbert Protocol ensures all relevant information can be passed quickly to police, and will provide vital assistance to officers in their search efforts. It’s a very simple process, but the benefits of doing so could mean a lot, not only to the police but also the family and loved ones of the person reported missing.”

The introduction of the Herbert Protocol is also welcomed by local charities.

Fay Godfrey, of Alzheimer’s Scotland Forth Valley, said: “When someone goes missing it is an extremely distressing time for family. Being able to prepare for such an event may provide a level of reassurance to families safe in the knowledge that having their loved ones details registered will not only save valuable time but may indeed save a life.”

For relatives in a care home, staff there should be contacted initially by a family member to discuss filling in the Herbert Protocol form and it can then be included in an individual’s care plan.

For relatives at home, the paperwork can be obtained through any police station or can be downloaded from the Police Scotland website and should be stored within the home.