A shake up of how healthcare is provided to prisoners in police stations will see nurses replace doctors.
The Metropolitan Police are recruiting more than 200 nurses in a programme that will mean nurses supplant doctors across most of the capital’s custody suites.
The Met is hiring eight nurse managers and 198 nurses to work in police stations across London in the biggest deployment of its kind in the country.
The four-year plan will more than halve the number of shifts covered by forensic medical examiners a put nurses in their place in each London borough.
At the moment there are 36 nurses in place or in training.
Charing Cross police station has employed custody nurses since 2001 because of the high number of patients with substance abuse or mental health problems coming into its cells.
But it was not until a review in 2006 that the Met began looking at re-modelling the workforce.
Other forces employ custody nurses but the London recruitment will make the Met’s the biggest by a factor of five.
The Met’s custody lead Detective Superintendant David Imroth said more nurses increased safety and allowed police to process detainees through the criminal justice system more efficiently.
He told Nursing Times: “We are processing more than 300,000 people a year, it is busy and varied. A lot of people think it’s practice nursing or A&E nursing in a different place. It’s not; it is being an independent practitioner.”
Home Office research suggested patients responded well to nurses but said there could be conflicts of interest between clinicians and officers over patient confidentiality.
Det Supt Imroth said this, consent issues and other factors specific to working in the cells were covered in the Met’s training.