Belfast Telegraph

PSNI custody suite nurses save four lives in six months

Chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle (left) and PSNI’s Una Williamson
Chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle (left) and PSNI’s Una Williamson

By David Young

Nurses hired to work in Northern Ireland's busiest police custody centre have been credited with potentially saving four lives in just six months.

The recently recruited medics have delivered emergency care to alleged offenders who have collapsed with life-threatening conditions, some caused by drug overdoses, while inside Musgrave Street police station in Belfast city centre.

The first trial phase of the new embedded service, costing approximately £500,000, was implemented at Musgrave Station in October 2018 and involves the PSNI, Department of Health and Department of Justice in partnership with the Public Health Agency.

The PSNI has a legal requirement to provide healthcare in custody and specially trained custody nurse practitioners (CNPs) from the Belfast Trust now work as part of the team at Musgrave.

Mental Health nurses have also been recruited.

Police said yesterday the initiative has had a really positive impact on healthcare provision within the station, and it is now working on a proposed rollout of the practice across Northern Ireland.

Previously healthcare in custody suites was solely provided by 57 forensic medical officers on an on-call basis.

Inspector Adrian Byrne said nurses had been able to deliver lifesaving treatment in the crucial minutes between someone falling ill and an ambulance arriving.

"Normally this would be straight on to get an ambulance on site, but I have witnessed first-hand the nurses in action, including CPR and a number of procedures they have carried out. It has proved very beneficial indeed," he said.

Chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle said nurses treated people in custody as they would any other patient.

"Nursing by its nature is non-judgmental," she said.

Yesterday Una Williamson, PSNI head of reducing offending and safer custody, hailed the positive impact of the trial.

Ms Williamson described it as "truly transformational".

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