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An evaluation of Police Custody Healthcare in the South West

Police custody marks a crucial stage in the criminal justice pathway for identifying health and social need and providing access to appropriate treatment, care, diversion and referral. The Bradley Report, which looked at ways to divert offenders with mental health problems or learning disabilities away from prisons into more appropriate services, highlighted that the majority of police custody detainees are subsequently found to have poor mental health, which is sometimes the underlying cause of their detention. Bradley emphasized that the police are therefore uniquely positioned to provide intervention and liaison with health and social care services. However, it was also stressed that this remains the least developed stage of the criminal justice health and social care pathway, in terms of engagement with health and social care services, yet it provides the greatest opportunity to effect change through improving access to services for detainees and providing valuable information to agencies at the later stages of the criminal justice system. In April this year, the University of the West of England conducted an in-depth evaluation of a pilot scheme launched by the Home Office/Department of Health in 2008, examing the efficacy of the NHS taking a strategic lead in commissioning police custody healthcare, and more specifically, to pilot the transfer of commissioning and budgetary responsibility from Dorset Police to Dorset Primary Care Trust. You can access the results of the evaluation by visiting the South West Offender Health Research Network via this link: If you have any further queries about this evaluation, please contact Dr Nick de Viggiani at:

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