North Yorkshire have followed the lead of neighbours, West and South Yorkshire, in implementing a national scheme designed to help people with dementia who go missing.
The Herbert Protocol aims to provide the police with quick, detailed information about a person’s background and history in a standardised format that will help speed up the time taken to find the person they are looking for.
Reporting someone as missing is often a stressful and highly upsetting experience, particularly for family members and loved ones. And when faced with lots of questions about the missing person, such as their daily routines, medication, mobility, and places that are significant to them, it can often take police a long time to gather all the information needed…particularly when much of the information that might prove most helpful may be historic in nature if the person is reverting back to memories from their past.
The Herbert Protocol encourages carers to gather all this information at their leisure, and gives them chance to think about their responses, to consider locations and places that they may not remember in the heat of an urgent or emergency situation.
Copies of it can then be kept safely, by a number of people if necessary (such as neighbours, friends and different family members), where it can be accessed quickly if the worst should happen and the person goes missing.
Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick of North Yorkshire Police, who is also the National Police Chiefs' Council's (NPCC) lead for Dementia, said:
"Given the stressful nature of making a report to the police when someone has gone missing, and then having an officer arrive to speak to you, it can be difficult to remember such information accurately.
"The Herbert Protocol is designed to provide the police with access to accurate information as soon as possible, meaning officers can ensure that their actions and searches are targeted on the basis of specific information. In such situations, it can often mean the difference between life and death."
Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive member for Adult Social Care and Health, City of York Council, said:
"I would urge friends and relatives of people living with Dementia to complete the Herbert Protocol form. Such a simple thing could make a real difference to how quickly their loved ones could be found, making a difficult situation less stressful and dangerous for all concerned."
The scheme is a national initiative and there is no cost involved. The police do not need to have access to the information until the person to whom it refers is reported as missing, and hopefully it will never be needed. But if it is, the time it saves could make a real difference to finding the person safe and well.