Police Scotland implements nationwide approach to help trace missing people with dementia

Police Scotland is encouraging the friends and family of people living with dementia to sign up to the Herbert Protocol on International Alzheimer’s Day (Tuesday, 21 September, 2021) .

The organisation is adopting a single national process to help officers quickly obtain information about a vulnerable missing person who has dementia, saving vital time in the early stages of an investigation.

The national implementation of the Herbert Protocol has been developed in partnership with Police Scotland, Health and Social Care Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Carers or family members can download the Herbert Protocol form from the Police Scotland website, or request a copy from local Health & Social Care Partnership staff, or other agencies, including Alzheimer Scotland.

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.

While the Herbert Protocol is in use in a number of Scottish policing divisions, a single form is now available nationwide to optimise the police response to locate the person and return them home, safe and well, as quickly as possible.

The Herbert Protocol form can 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.

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.

“We are completely committed to protecting vulnerable people from harm and having the Herbert Protocol in place Scotland-wide is a significant step towards keeping people safe.”

Watch: Morag and Eleanor’s Story

Morag cares for her mum Eleanor, who has a diagnosis of dementia. Morag has been using the Herbert Protocol and the Purple Alert app to allow her mum to be independent and still have the freedom she loves.

Judith Proctor, chair of the Chief Officers’ Group, Health and Social Care Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be a key partner supporting the national roll out of the Herbert Protocol.

“Care professionals across health and social care partnerships in Scotland will be encouraging and supporting family and friends of people at risk of going missing to complete and hold onto this simple form. It’s another proactive way we can all work together in our communities, helping to keep people safe.”

Key Info

  • The protocol is a form which family members or carers complete for a person living with dementia or at risk of going missing. The form is available to download from Police Scotland’s website https://www.scotland.police.uk/what-s-happening/missing-persons/the-herbert-protocol/
  • It provides personal details, medical history, significant locations and information about previous incident of going missing.
  • The protocol can be printed out and stored in a safe, easily accessible place in the person’s home or kept by a family member electronically.
  • It enables police officers to quickly obtain vital information about vulnerable people who have been reported missing.