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Lib Dems claim custody nurse shortage 'clearly' linked to rising ambulance call outs to London police stations

The number of ambulances attending London police stations has doubled in four years, at the same time as a deepening recruitment crisis for specialist custody nurses.
London ambulance

A high vacancy rate for custody nurses in London is 'clearly related' to why the number of ambulances called to police stations has doubled, the Liberal Democrats have said.

Figures revealed at a recent London Assembly Mayoral Question session show in 2012, 2,477 ambulances were called to the then 69 police stations across London, compared with 5,543 called in 2016 to the still active 36 stations.

It follows the Future of MPS Custody Healthcare Services report that revealed a 70% vacancy rate for custody nurses in London last March.

The Lib Dems have renewed calls for the responsibility of health professionals in police stations in London to be moved away

A high vacancy rate for custody nurses in London is 'clearly related' to why the number of ambulances called to police stations has doubled, the Liberal Democrats have said.

London ambulance
5,543 ambulances were called to the then 69 London police stations in 2016. Picture: iStock

Figures revealed at a recent London Assembly Mayoral Question session show in 2012, 2,477 ambulances were called to the then 69 police stations across London, compared with 5,543 called in 2016 to the still active 36 stations.

It follows the Future of MPS Custody Healthcare Services report that revealed a 70% vacancy rate for custody nurses in London last March.

The Lib Dems have renewed calls for the responsibility of health professionals in police stations in London to be moved away from the Metropolitan Police and handed to the NHS – in line with the rest of the UK.

Doubling of ambulance call outs

Then home secretary, and now prime minister, Theresa May blocked the move in 2015.

Liberal Democrat London assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said: 'The doubling of ambulances called out to police stations in every part of London since 2012 is clearly related to a long-standing problem of the Met not recruiting sufficient nurses to operate in its custody suites.

'The current fiasco we have of demands being made on the ambulance service and then police officers wasting so much of their time supervising suspects at emergency departments is just a further reason why the responsibility of healthcare provision within police stations should be transferred across to the NHS, just as it is in the prison service.'

Falling short

In 2014, a London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report into healthcare provision revealed a near 50% gap in the number of custody nurses.

The report said: 'Despite repeated efforts, the Met has been unable to recruit and retain the number of nurses it needs for the system to work adequately. Medical professionals working in custody suites say this has increased the risk of a death or serious harm in police custody.'

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: 'The health and well-being of people in custody is a key priority and the Met will continue to provide a safe and appropriate environment for those who come into our detention.

'The Met continues to focus on the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals, both custody nurse practitioners and forensic medical examiners. However, it is recognised that this is likely to be an ongoing concern due to the shortage of healthcare professionals nationally and particularly in London.'


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