Two police officers are set to start work today from a new permanent base at the Royal Blackburn Hospital’s emergency department, in what is believed to be the first project of its kind in the country.
Hospital bosses have increased security after police were getting three calls a day to the site, which treats accident and emergency patients from Burnley and across East Lancashire.
The officers will deal with attacks on staff, patients and families displaying aggressive behaviour, those who are drunk or under the influence of drugs and people with mental health issues.
Called the Pennine Lancashire Hospital Early Action Team, the presence is designed to reduce the diversion of police resources away from mainstream police work.
Between September 2012 and September 2013 there were a total of 1.230 police calls to A&E, an average of 100 calls per month.
Chiefs at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said many of these calls related to people who frequently visited the A&E department in a distressed state as the result of alcohol and substance misuse or mental health problems.
They said, as well as increasing security, officers will link in with a number of key organisations to encourage people to access other health, community and social care organisations such as mental health, housing, adult social care and substance misuse services instead of the emergency department.
Chief Insp. Justin Srivastava, from 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 attendees 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.”
Dr Mike Ions, chief clinical officer of NHS East Lancashire CCG, said: “By establishing clearer pathways into other services the individuals will benefit from care which better meets their needs and is tailored to specifically help them. It allows key services to better help meet the needs of those individuals who require their support.”
Charles Thomson, clinical director of the emergency department at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “This initiative represents an ideal opportunity to benefit the patients in ensuring that they get directed to appropriate services. It also gives our staff increased support on site and increases police efficiency.
“This example of safe, personal and effective care will result in a better experience for all patients who attend our emergency department. It will help to reduce emergency admissions, re-admissions and streamline the way care is provided to ensure safe and dignified care – key requirements from the Keogh review.”
The scheme is being funded by ELHT, Lancashire Constabulary, NHS Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS East Lancashire CCG, and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust are also a key partner in the work.