Cheshire Constabulary has become the first force in the North West to adopt a scheme aimed at helping vulnerable residents.
It has officially launched the Herbert Protocol which encourages carers, family members and friends of those with dementia to complete an online form recording vital details about that person in case they ever go missing.
Those details include a photograph of the person, any medication they require, contact phone numbers and key information about places they like to visit, where they used to live and work, their routine or have been previously found.
This means that in the event they are ever reported missing to the police, all their vital information can be accessed instantly and handed to officers helping to reduce the time it takes to gather information which can prove vital.
The protocol was initially created by Norfolk Constabulary and is named after the late George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy landings who lived with dementia.
"It is such a valuable tool"
Insp Simon Newell said: “Last year officers dealt with more than 6,500 reports of missing people in Cheshire. Many of these cases involved people who are living with dementia which is why I believe that the Herbert Protocol is such a valuable tool.
“Gathering information about missing people can often take time and it may not always be accurate as people are often in a distressed state when reporting missing relatives or friends.
“However, by signing up to the Herbert Protocol all of the information required can be accessed instantly saving valuable time and hopefully helping to return them home safety.
“If you live in Cheshire and have a friend or relative living with dementia and often worry that they may go missing then I would urge you to go online and fill in the form. It won’t take long to fill it in and the information you provide could be vital.”
It is estimated that there are currently more than 850,000 people in England who are living with some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, with this figure set to increase to one million by 2025.
It is pointed out that caring for people who live with such illnesses can be challenging and many with dementia are known to start to walk about or wander. While this may only be into the garden or street and returning a short time later some people can get lost and go missing.
In preparation for the launch of the scheme neighbourhood officers across the county have been working in partnership with local authorities, registered care homes, the Alzheimer’s Society and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure as many people as possible are signed up.
The force has also been working closely with the Care Quality Commission which conducts care home inspections. The commission is said to be fully supportive of the scheme and is considering including the Herbert Protocol as part of all future inspections in Cheshire.
Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “Making sure that the police service has the right information at the right rime is crucial in ensuring that as a community we are able to protect vulnerable residents.
"Proud to support this"
“The launch of the Herbert Protocol in Cheshire is a positive step and something that I have been proud to support.
“It not only enables establishments, such as care homes and residential homes, to support local policing with relevant and appropriate information in a speedy way when a vulnerable resident goes missing but also provides an opportunity for the general public to take a leading role in supporting their police service to protect their loved ones.
“My hope is that the implementation of this nationally recognised and accredited scheme will support the effective and efficient use of local policing resources and empower our communities to connect with, and support the Constabulary in keeping some of our most vulnerable residents safe.”
Jo Hawkins, operations manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in Cheshire, said: “We are delighted that Cheshire Police is introducing the Herbert Protocol.
“People with dementia are particularly vulnerable if they go missing from a care home of other familiar setting. They may be trying to find their way back to their home or somewhere else from their past life that they have happy memories of but can quickly become confused and completely lost.
“These new measures will really help police act quickly to find someone who has gone missing and hopefully minimise the distress this can result in for the individual and their family.”
To find out more about the Herbert Protocol or to register a friend or family member visit https://www.cheshire.police.uk/advice-and-support/missing-persons/herbert-protocol/.
For advice or information about dementia visit www.alzheimers.org.uk or call the Alzheimer’s Society North West office on 01925 572239.