An A&E department struggling to control violent and abusive patients has opened the first hospital police station in the UK.
The innovative project will see two highly trained police liason officers placed within the A&E department at Royal Blackburn Hospital.
The move is hoped to tackle the rising tide of violence after staff at the hospital’s emergency department were forced to call police 1,230 times from September 2012 to September 2013 - an average of 100 calls a month.
The Pennine Lancashire Hospital Early Action Team will be based at the hospital to help deal with patients who are physically and verbally abusive and those who are drunk or on drugs.
Before the project, the police would be called to deal with assaults on staff, concerns for the individuals and other patients’ safety, and to help find some of these distressed individuals who would voluntarily disappear from A&E - sparking a search for a high risk missing person.
This meant even further police resources were diverted away from mainstream police work but the #80,000 pilot project aims to reduce the demands on hospital and police staff.
A spokesman for NHS Staffordshire and Lancashire CSU said: “These two carefully selected officers are part of a project which aims to deal with frequent attendees and better improve the individuals’ access to health and care services which best meet their needs.
“This streamlining of patient pathways will provide better outcomes for those individuals and families seeking help.
“Subsequently the project aims to decrease unnecessary police attendance at A&E, improve patient and staff experience at the hospital and reduce aggression against hospital staff.”
The two Hospital Police Liaison Officers, Janet Cowley and Andrew Mcginty, started in their role on 1 April and are now fully operational following a two week induction period.
While other hospitals in the UK have officers on site at weekends, this is thought to be the first full-time project of its kind.
Chief Inspector Justin Srivastava, of Lancashire Constabulary, said: “This project isn’t about providing a security presence in A&E.
“These two officers will be highly skilled individuals trained to identify complex frequent attenders at A&E who can benefit from other services.
“This is an extremely positive initiative across the health economy aimed at dealing with the root cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms of the problem and thus allow resources to be utilised better both from a hospital and police perspective.”
The officers work in conjunction with hospital staff to identify individuals who attend the hospital and display challenging behaviour, alcohol and substance misuse issues, people who do not have a clear mental health diagnosis and frequent attendance with all of the above.