Pilot police scheme to be extended across Lowestoft

AN initiative that aims to help older and more vulnerable residents in the Lowestoft area access police services is being extended after a successful pilot scheme.

Operation Safe, which is already in use in some areas of Norfolk under the name Operation Comfort, was trialled in Lowestoft between October and January with a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) visiting local residents alongside nurses from NHS Great Yarmouth & Waveney Community Services district nursing team.

PCSO Julia Quantrill, from the Lowestoft North Safer Neighbourhood Team, was dedicated to the pilot scheme and, working with the community nursing team from the Alexandra Road general practice, spent two mornings a week undertaking joint visits.

The Alexandra Road surgery serves patients from across 10 electoral wards in Lowestoft and has more than 16,000 registered patients, of which 2,764 are over 65. During the pilot, 62 individuals were visited with patient ages ranging from 55 to 108.

The nurse would ask whether the patient wished to meet and speak to the PCSO before the visit proceeded and 40 of the 62 visited reported no problems. However the remainder did express concerns about a range of topics including neighbour issues, anti-social behaviour, nuisance callers and vandalism.

Lowestoft SNT Inspector Sarsfield Donohue said Operation Safe would now be extended across the whole of Lowestoft.

'It's recognised that an individual's ability to access police services may be restricted due to factors such as poor health, disability or fear of leaving their home and this scheme offers an opportunity to provide access to police to report crime, anti-social behaviour or other issues of concern as well as providing reassurance and crime reduction advice.

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'Any initial uncertainties of the merits of joint visits – for example would it prove beneficial and workable for patients, nurses and police - were quickly dispelled.

'It became clear that the presence of a PCSO on visits changed the interaction with patients - some shared concerns with the PCSO that they'd been unable to share with nursing staff and they were able to air issues they wouldn't have previously contacted police about, for fear it would be viewed as wasting our time.

'Nursing staff have said that such interactions between PCSO and patient have a positive impact on the patient's health and the presence of the Community Support Officer has provided additional support to the nurses on some occasions where patients may have previously been difficult to deal with as well as allowing them to have a direct point of contact with police.

'It has also provided opportunities for us to build bridges with those who previously have not wanted to engage with police. The pilot has reshaped the image and perception of the Constabulary among several members of the community with some reporting that they now see police in a totally different light.'

Walter Lloyd-Smith, Safeguarding Adults Lead for NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Community Services, said the arrangement had benefits for all involved.

'Having the PCSO link with the community nursing team in Operation Safe offers a simple, practical and no cost way to improve support and reassurance to some of the most vulnerable patients seen by community nurses. Community health staff know all too well the disproportionate negative impact issues of concern can have a person's daily life which can in turn can impact negatively on their health.

'Patients seen during Operation Safe have raised a wide range of issues, from home security and nuisance/cold callers, to parking problems and anti-social behaviour, concerns which in turn have a significant impact on a person's life. Patients and their families have told us how they keen they are to see the two services working together in this way.'

Detective Inspector Terry Jones of Suffolk Police's north-east Victim Care Centre said he was pleased the pilot had been a success.

'This is about safeguarding adults and reaching out to the whole community, regardless of their age or disability.

'We recognise that within the community there are vulnerable adults who can't access police services by standard means - who can't get to street and public meetings to have their voices heard and who may think that their problems are not important. This initiative is an ideal opportunity to engage with them and also for two key agencies - health and police - to work more closely together to protect vulnerable people in our communities.'

The pilot will now be extended across Lowestoft with six PCSOs working with the four community nursing teams based in the town to reach as many house-bound residents as possible.

Officers will also work with other agencies, such as Homeshield and the fire service, to see if there are other aspects, such as home security and fire safety, that can be enhanced and if there are other services residents may be entitled to.

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