Health bosses have hailed the launch of a new pilot initiative which will help the Police to quickly and safely recover people who have dementia if they are reported missing.

The Herbert Protocol, launched by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in partnership with Dementia NI, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and local Policing and Community Safety Partnership, 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.

This is available, initially, to everyone registered with adult care services, including people living with dementia or similar conditions in the pilot areas of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon.

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.

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

Lisa Sherman, Crime Prevention Officer in Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon said: “Every minute is crucial in tracing older missing people with complex vulnerabilities, including dementia and so having this information readily available could be very helpful to the police.

“We are pleased to be working with partner agencies on the roll out of this pilot initiative and we would encourage families in the local areas to use this form so that it can be provided to the police should the need arise.

“This scheme can provide families with peace of mind knowing that they are prepared should they need to report a loved one missing.

“Experience of this protocol in other parts of the UK has shown that by having this information to hand it will help us to protect vulnerable adults if they go missing.”

The local Health and Social Care Board along with Dementia NI will be working with people who know or who 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 new protocol.

A Southern Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said: “The Trust supports the Herbert Protocol in partnership with the PSNI and Dementia NI. This is an important initiative in supporting people living with Dementia (and their carers) - reducing time spent gathering crucial information if a person goes missing. We will continue to work alongside the PSNI and Dementia NI to roll out the protocol within the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.”

Hazel Haworth, Dementia NI Empowerment Officer, said: “Dementia NI is very pleased to be working with the PSNI on rolling out the Herbert Protocol in Northern Ireland, starting with this pilot launch. The initiative will enable police to respond more quickly and efficiently when a person living with dementia goes missing. This means they are more likely to be found safe and sound. Dementia NI greatly values our partnership with the PSNI who consulted our members, all of whom are living with dementia, when creating the protocol. This practical initiative is part of making NI a better place for people with dementia and their families and carers to live.”

Northern Ireland’s Protocol includes input from Dementia NI members including Gerard Doran, 62, from Craigavon, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in October 2020. Gerard said: “People with dementia can experience significant memory loss and confusion. This can cause them to be unable to recognise places and faces. For some this can lead to wandering, going missing or getting lost when leaving home. The Herbert Protocol can help individuals with dementia, as well as carers, family and friends, to provide useful info that can help the police find a vulnerable person who may have gone missing. As a member of Dementia NI, I appreciate the introduction of the Herbert Protocol to support people with dementia. To me, this important initiative means if something was to happen and I was reported missing in the future, I would be supported.”

At the launch Chair of Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Policing and Community Safety Partnership, Councillor Jill Macauley said: “The Herbert Protocol is the perfect example of how working in partnership can help support some of the most vulnerable people in our society. ABC PCSP was delighted to be part of the initial discussions which led to this pilot being introduced in our Borough. It will be a great comfort for carers and families to know that plans are in place should a person go missing. At such a stressful time having as much information as possible at hand should greatly assist to bring them home quickly and safely.”

The Herbert Protocol is a well-established initiative already used elsewhere in the wider UK. It originated in Norfolk and takes its name after Normandy landings veteran George Herbert, who lived with dementia and died in 2011, after he went missing while looking for his childhood home.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland hope to roll out this initiative to the rest of the Service in 2022.

If you are living in the Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon areas you can find out more information on the scheme and download the form here on our website.

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