Herbert Protocol Launch picture

An initiative that will help Police and other agencies find those with Dementia quickly and safely is now being rolled out across Northern Ireland.

The Herbert Protocol, launched by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in partnership with Dementia NI, the Health and Social Care Trust and local Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs), enables officers to work quicker to find those with dementia who go missing.

It is a public document that can be populated with vital information, such as a recent photograph, contact details, medication required and significant locations relating to the individual. This can then be provided to officers and used to save vital time in a missing person investigation.

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 people living at home, the paperwork can be downloaded from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s website and should be stored within the home. Families can fill out the forms for vulnerable relatives who are at risk of going missing.

The initiative was launched as a pilot in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon in October 2021 and in that time three people will dementia went missing. Although they were all found safe and well by those who care for them (before Police needed to be contacted) the Herbert Protocol gave them peace of mind knowing that information was available if the situation escalated.

Martin Murtagh Junior, 48, from Belfast, supports his dad Martin who lives with dementia: “The Herbert Protocol is essential for anyone who has had a loved one with dementia go missing. Dad found it easy to fill in and it provides all the vital details in one place for the police. In the past there have been several occasions where Dad has left his house alone to go for a walk and become disorientated. As a family, we found this very scary and wanted to keep him as safe as possible. I am so glad Dad has filled in the form because if he does get lost we will have it ready to pass to police to help find him quickly."

Martin Murtagh Senior, 71, from Belfast, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, says: “It is very frightening to get lost when you live with dementia. Once I went out walking alone and ended up at Belfast City Airport. When I arrived, I felt very confused about how or why I had got there. I think I went there because I had been there many times in the past with my wife. I spoke to a bus driver who helped me to get home but I thought to myself, ‘Is this going to happen again?’ The Herbert Protocol allows me to keep my independence and reassures me that should I ever go missing in the future, police will have the information they need to search for me right away."

Superintendent Julie Mullan said: “Every minute is crucial in tracing missing people with complex vulnerabilities, including dementia and so having this information available could be very helpful to Police.

“We are pleased to be working with partner agencies on the expansion of this initiative across the whole of Northern Ireland and we would encourage people with dementia, families and carers in the local areas to use this form so that it can be provided to Police if needed.

“This scheme has already provided many families and carers in the pilot areas with peace of mind knowing that they are prepared should they need to report a loved one missing.

“If someone you love goes missing it is an incredibly stressful and challenging time, meaning you’re not always able to provide answers to the questions that Police will ask in order for us to act as quickly as possible.

“By having this information to hand it will alleviates some pressure off families and carers and help us to begin a search for a missing vulnerable adult almost immediately.”

Local Health and Social Care Boards, along with Dementia NI, will be working with people with dementia or those who know or look after someone who might be vulnerable to encourage them to complete the form. Information is also being shared on social media to raise awareness of the regional rollout of the protocol.

Clare Watson, Chief Executive of Dementia NI, says: “We’re thrilled that the Herbert Protocol is being rolled out all over Northern Ireland. The decision by the Police, the Department of Health and the PCSPs to work in partnership with Dementia NI was greatly welcomed. There are over 20,000 people in Northern Ireland with a dementia diagnosis and that number is projected to double by 2040 so this is an important step towards improving the support local people with dementia get.

“This wouldn’t have happened without our members who campaigned to bring the Herbert Protocol to Northern Ireland and worked with the Police to shape the Herbert Protocol form. They ensured it gathers the right information to help find the person who has gone missing. They also worked on the form to make it accessible for people with dementia. The introduction of this fantastic initiative shows that practical changes that improve the lives of people with dementia are well within reach when we all work together.”

Health Minister Swann endorsed the regional roll out saying: “The Department of Health is committed to delivering the best outcomes for people with dementia, and their families and carers, across Northern Ireland which is why we support the introduction of the Herbert Protocol.

“People with dementia are more likely to become disorientated and often experience short-term memory loss yet can recall memories from many years ago. When out and about they may not remember how to get home. Sometimes those reported missing try to make their way to locations from their past.

The Herbert Protocol form is designed to provide the Police with everything they need to know to find the person who may have gone missing quickly and safely.

“I hope the initiative will be used by people across Northern Ireland. I feel sure that having a completed form will give peace of mind to people living with dementia and their families that should they go missing there is a plan in place to find them safely.”

Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon PCSP Chair Councillor Thomas Larkham commended the organisations involved in introducing the Herbert Protocol:  “This is a very useful and practical way of supporting people with a dementia diagnosis who if they go missing can be disorientated and confused.

“For families and care givers the protocol means information is readily available to assist a search and help to find that person in a much shorter time-frame. In such a stressful situation it can be hard to remember key details that could really help.

“The Herbert Protocol is a demonstration of true partnership working and ABC PCSP is delighted to have been involved in piloting the scheme which will now keep vulnerable people safer throughout the whole of Northern Ireland.”

Find out more information on The Herbert Protocol and download the form here: www.psni.police.uk/herbertprotocol