What is the Herbert Protocol? The scheme to help trace missing people with dementia

The Herbert Protocol helps save valuable time during a missing person enquiry - here’s what carers, police and charities have to say about it

A scheme to help trace missing people with dementia has now been introduced across Scotland.

The Herbert Protocol, which aims to ensure quick access to information about a missing person with dementia, was already in use by some Scottish police divisions.

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It comes as World Alzheimer’s Day is marked today (21 September).

Currently there are around 850,000 people across the UK with dementia - a figure which is expected to rise.

Research suggests around 70% of people with dementia may go missing at least once, with some at risk of going missing multiple times.

Often those with dementia might go to places they were previously connected with, such as childhood homes.

What is the Herbert Protocol?

The Herbert Protocol began in Norfolk and is named after George Herbert, a veteran of the Normandy landings in World War Two.

Mr Herbert, who had dementia, died in 2011 after going missing while looking for his childhood home.

The protocol, which is already widely used throughout the UK,  works by way of a form which can be given to police to save time in the event of a missing person’s inquiry.

The form is completed in advance and generally kept in the person’s home or with relatives.

It holds personal details, a description, a recent photograph, languages spoken, as well as previous addresses, places of employment and other significant locations in someone’s life.

This can include their old school, a church, or a favourite walking route, plus their medical history and information about past incidents of going missing.

Where can I access it?

Carers, relatives and friends can complete the form. Once it is filled out the responsibility for updating it lies with the family or carers.

In Scotland the form can be downloaded from the Police Scotland website. Copies can also be requested from organisations such as Alzheimer Scotland, or from staff at Health and Social Care Partnerships.

In England the form can be downloaded via the Metropolitan Police site, while in Wales the form can also be accessed via the police force websites.

The Herbert Protocol can also be used together with Alzheimer Scotland Purple Alert, a free app designed to help finding missing people with dementia. If someone is missing, users will get notified via the app and can help with local searches.

‘My insurance document’ - what carers think of it

Morag Francis is a carer for her mum, who has a dementia diagnosis. Her family has already completed a Herbert Protocol form.

She said: “We did it as a little project with Mum, because it was about her life, so it turned into a bit of a reminiscence session, so we could pinpoint areas that were still important to her. We could guess most of them because she did talk a lot about the past, but we wanted to make sure we’d thought of all the areas she might turn up at because that’s where she remembered.

"To me it’s my insurance document, because I appreciate if we couldn’t find her the levels of stress would be incredible and we wouldn’t really be able to think straight.

“Everyone in the family who’s on the form as a contact has the Herbert Protocol saved in their emails, so if something did happen we would have very quick and easy access to it on our phones and we could email it to whoever needed it. Having that ready to go is very reassuring to me as her daughter. It’s really important to have it there, just in case.”

What the police and others say

It is hoped now a single form is available nationwide, those caring for people with dementia will sign up.

The national implementation of the scheme was carried out in partnership with Police Scotland, Health and Social Care Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie (Partnerships, Prevention and Community Wellbeing - PPCW), Chief Superintendent Linda Jones - PPCW Divisional Commander, Tommy Petillo - Alzheimer Scotland Purple Alert Co-ordinator, Karen Thom - Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, Superintendent Norrie Conway - PPCW.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie, Partnerships, Prevention and Community Wellbeing, said: “When a person goes missing, the first hour is vitally important. Previously, we would have spent a significant amount of time gathering information from family, friends or carers, but being able to give officers a completed Herbert Protocol form saves valuable minutes and hours.

“We hope that families who choose to complete a form will never have to use them. But if they do, having that completed form to hand gives relatives or carers peace of mind that they’re providing the police with detailed, relevant information to enable us to send officers to places where your loved one may be.”

Alzheimer Scotland Deputy Director Joyce Gray said the scheme willhelp us to make people living with dementia safer in Scotland”.

Judith Proctor, chair of the Chief Officers’ Group, Health and Social Care Scotland, said care professionals across the country’s health and social care partnerships would encourage family and friends of people at risk of going missing to complete the form.

And Kevin Stewart, Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, spoke of how “stressful” it can be for carers when a loved one with dementia goes missing. He described the Herbert Protocol as a “straightforward” way to provide the information needed.

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