Police response to call about welfare of 72-year-old man

On 19 April 2016, a Neighbourhood Support Officer employed by the City of Edinburgh Council telephoned Police Scotland to report that she had concerns for a man, aged 72 who was the subject of regular welfare visits. There had been no reply at the home address of the man and he had not been seen for a few days.

Police Scotland dispatched officers to attend at the address. However, on the way to the call they were diverted to another urgent incident in Edinburgh City Centre. The original incident was not re-allocated and as a result there was a considerable delay before officers attended and found the man in the house severely ill. His condition has slowly improved and he is now expected to make a full recovery.

In terms of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 and the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (Investigations Procedure, Serious Incidents and Specified Weapons) Regulations 2013, all serious incidents involving police, must be referred to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) for independent investigation.

Following investigation the Commissioner concluded that:

  • When the initial telephone call was made to police, it was correctly prioritised as a Grade 2 incident. Although officers were not dispatched to attend within the 15 minute timescale required by this grading, they were dispatched within 35 minutes.
  • When the officers were diverted to another call, there was a lack of ownership regarding the initial call, which resulted in a delay of over five hours in the police attending at the house to assist the occupant.
  • Medical opinion suggests that this delay is unlikely to have had a significant impact on the severity of the man's illness.
  • Police Scotland have carried out a review of the incident and safeguards have been put in place with regard to this type of incident (more commonly known as 'concern for incidents'). This includes supervisors reviewing 'concern for' incidents and Inspectors 'walking the floor' of the Area Control Room to strengthen supervision of staff.

As Police Scotland has already taken steps since the incident to improve its procedures, the PIRC has no additional recommendations.

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