Northern Ireland news

Herbert Protocol aims to help police and other agencies find those with dementia quickly and safely

(L-R) Clare Watson, Chief Executive of Dementia NI, Martin Murtagh, Dementia NI member, councillor Thomas Larkham, Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon PCSP Chair and Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton
Marie Louise McConville

AN initiative which will help police and other agencies find those with dementia quickly and safely has been rolled out across Northern Ireland.

The Herbert Protocol has been launched by the PSNI in partnership with Dementia NI, the Health and Social Care Trust and local Policing and Community Safety Partnerships (PCSPs).

The protocol will enable officers to work quicker to find those with dementia who go missing.

The public document can be completed 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.

The initiative was initially 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.

For relatives in a care home, staff can 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 PSNI's website and should be stored within the home.

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.

"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," she said.

Clare Watson, Chief Executive of Dementia NI, says: "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," she said.

"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".

Martin Murtagh (71), from Belfast, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, said: "It is very frightening to get lost when you live with dementia.

"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".

Further information is available at www.psni.police.uk/herbertprotocol

Read more: Bad dreams in middle age ‘linked to higher risk of dementia' 

Northern Ireland news