Substance use amongst inpatients on mental health wards: practical guide for mental health services

Guidance for NHS health boards providing inpatient mental health services on responding to substance use on mental health wards. This should be used in conjunction with existing local guidance for responding to substance use incidents on inpatient wards.

11. Liaising with Police Scotland

The use of substances should always be reported to the police. This reflects no value judgement on the part of the clinical team but ensures that police intelligence is updated and a consistent message that substances are not permitted on inpatient wards is communicated. The police response will be determined by the assessment of risk in each circumstance. It may not be possible or appropriate for police to attend immediately to each allegation of substance use, and clinical staff should work collaboratively with Police Scotland colleagues to agree the most appropriate response. This is best achieved by providing clear and unambiguous information when reporting concerns to Police Scotland. Appendix D helps guide staff as to the information that is necessary and should be recorded, using an incident reporting system, such as Datix. The following are some of the key pieces of information to share:

  • State precisely where the substance was found, e.g. front right hand pocket
  • Who discovered the substance
  • A description of the substance
  • The volume of the substance, e.g. 14 scored white tablets

Staff should also record the incident report number (such as Datix), police incident number or crime reference number and/ or the enquiry officer details in the patient’s notes.

11.1 Liaison between NHS and Police Scotland

Links should be established between all NHS inpatient units and Police Scotland. Police Scotland should identify a Liaison Officer to meet regularly with senior clinical staff (either in person or via an online meeting). These meetings should be used to share appropriate information, ensure a balanced and effective response and ensure that any incidents that may have posed a risk to patients, staff or the public have been adequately addressed.

11.2 Escalation

If a situation that potentially poses a risk to patients, staff and/or the public has been reported to the police but the risk remains present, clinical staff have a duty to escalate concerns to their senior managers. They in turn have a duty to liaise with senior members of the police until the situation has been made safe for all concerned.

11.3 Appropriate Adult

The police must provide support for persons in custody (an appropriate adult) for individuals who are unable to understand sufficiently what is happening or unable to communicate with the police because of a mental disorder. See sections 2.3 to 2.12 of Appropriate Adults: guidance for local authorities for more information.



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