‘Missing person’ alerts sparked by ‘patients’ reporting at Accident & Emergency before leaving without giving any notice are a regular occurrence, according to the PSNI at Strand Road who have issued a hard-hitting statement asking people to be more responsible.
The force warned that valuable police and hospital resources are being unnecessarily wasted dealing with such instances.
Time and effort would be far better deployed attending to serious A&E cases or searching for genuine missing people, they said.
The appeal for greater responsibility and common sense follows a recent review of calls by the Northern Contact Management Centre at Maydown.
In a statement police said: “PSNI Call Management regularly take phone calls from our local hospitals reporting ‘missing people/concerns for safety’. The vast majority of these reports could be avoided if persons attending hospital made staff aware they were leaving prior to being seen/attended to.”
“Our hospitals, especially A&E are very busy and have to prioritise casualties, which means waiting and nobody wants to do that nowadays but think about this: the phone call hospital staff make to ourselves is only after they have carried out their own checks - of the department/ward, the corridors and toilets, the immediate area outside of the hospital and with their security staff. This uses up their valuable time.
“Depending on the nature of the report this could involve deploying several police call signs, a police dog and/or air support and civilian volunteers, only to find the person has returned home one or two hours later and didn’t really need to be at the hospital in the first place.”
The PSNI said this was a serious waste of time and resources.
“This uses up our valuable time. A moment’s thought can prevent a lot of unnecessary work by all,” the force said.
Time-wasting hospital walk-outs are far from the only instances where emergency responders’ time is spent fruitlessly. Derry police confirmed how in one day alone this week they received calls on the 101 non-emergency number from someone requesting a plumber, someone who said they needed the footpath outside their house cleared of dog waste, and from someone reporting a fire.
And even worse, “we receive a vast amount of calls that involve someone who is misbehaving whilst heavily under the influence of alcohol,” the force said.