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Innovative scheme helps get police officers back to the frontline

An innovative scheme that uses private security staff to support police detainees or people suffering mental health episodes has saved the equivalent of 10 weeks of police officer time in just three months.

Innovative scheme helps get police officers back to the frontline

Following a successful pilot at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in 2020 ‘Bed Watch’ is currently being trialled at Devon and Cornwall’s five major general hospitals this summer as police search for ways to reduce the time spent by officers at hospital with those who have been arrested or who are in mental health crisis and are awaiting assessment by a specialist.

Bed Watch is one of the projects being funded by Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez as part of a £400,000 investment which supports officers who find innovative ways of reducing the impact on front line policing.

Bed Watch is the brainchild of Chief Inspector Rob Mooney who worked with Plymouth private security company Crown Security to develop it at Derriford hospital.

Two officers generally stay with a detainee at hospital. The principle is that one of the police officers is substituted by a Crown Security staff member to sit with a detainee, thus releasing one of the officers back to their core function.

Crown’s officers do not wear an ‘overt’ uniform and this has removed some barriers for those in mental health crisis.

The success experienced at Derriford in 2020, and a second year funding from the OPCC, has seen the scheme extended.

This summer it is running seven days a week, 24 hours a day at Derriford and from 8pm to 8am at Royal Devon and Exeter, Royal Cornwall, North Devon and Torbay.

Since starting on 1 July, Bed Watch has been requested on 48 occasions – saving a total of 375 police hours.

“I first ran the pilot in Plymouth last year when I saw an opportunity to work with Crown who already provide a support service to the NHS on wards and in the community,” said Ch Insp Mooney.

“Demand of staff being at hospitals with detainees or with those suffering from mental ill health is a significant commitment for the Force, so anything we can do to get officers quickly back to their core duties, whilst still providing a good service is a real positive.”

Commissioner Hernandez said: “We know that with the summer surge of people into Devon and Cornwall brings a significant increase in calls for police help and this is a time when it’s really important for my team to work with the force to provide solutions and minimise demand.

“Most of this is not about crime – the majority of policing activity in Devon and Cornwall, summer included, is related to dealing with mentally unwell people, missing people, road traffic incidents and other ‘non crime’ incidents that escalate between April and October.

“I have made available an additional £750,000, £400,000 is being used by the police to make sure as much resource as possible is available to the people who most need it.

“Bed Watch is just one of those schemes. I am encouraged by early reports of its effectiveness and look forward to seeing the full evaluation in the winter.”