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Demand: Police have seen demand soar at the Northern General Hospital
Demand: Police have seen demand soar at the Northern General Hospital

Police have spent more time at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital in the first six months of this year than in the previous 12 months as demand for officers has soared, prompting work to reverse the situation.

By the end of September officers had put in 2,476 hours dealing with incidents, compared to 1,883 for the whole of 2017/18, at what is the largest hospital site in Europe.

But focused action by officers in recent weeks has seen numbers of incidents they have needed to attend cut by almost half.

Negotiations are also going on with management at the site, which could see NHS funding used to finance a police officer to work exclusively at the complex.

The figures were presented to South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, at a public accountability board meeting where he holds police to account for their performance.

One of the biggest draws on police time is the investigations which follow patients going missing, which are normally a result of mental health issues or those attending accident and emergency.

In recent history, police have needed to deal with eight such incidents every day, but following work with the hospital that has been slashed to two.

That is a result of training hospital staff in how to deal with such risks, something police say has been a “challenging time”.

Positive changes on site include the provision of a room for police, allowing them to set up a ‘station’ on site.

But discussions are expected to continue in the New Year between senior officers and the hospital’s chief executive which could result in the NHS funding a police officer to work full time on the premises.

The hospital trust itself has 22 security staff, but they are spread between the NGH, Royal Hallamshire and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

In practice, that means there are likely to be two staff on duty at any time at the NGH, with one of those staffing the CCTV cameras used to monitor the site.

Sheffield’s district commander, Chief Supt Stuart Barton said the hospital was: “Still a real challenge and something we talk about on a daily basis.

“We have some ideas and will be discussing them with the chief executive early in the New Year.

“We have already had a discussion about a funded officer, their security and what they can do to reduce demand.

“There is room for some improvement around the numbers they have. Our discussion si around how the chief executive sees it going in the future. What we need to see is a downward trend around the Northern General Hospital.

“We have to do something about it, it is as simple as that,” he said.

The scale of resources needed at the NGH dwarfs all of South Yorkshire’s other hospitals with accident and emergency departments, which are a major source of police incidents.

Statistics for the first six months of this year suggest all will be a bigger drain on police staff than previously, with Doncaster Royal Infirmary accounting for 881 hours of police time from April to September, compared to 833 hours for the whole of the previous year.

Barnsley Hospital, where security staff have recently been increased, has needed 500 hours of policing time so far, against 766 for the whole of last year and Rotherham Hospital has accounted for 582 hours of policing time, against 685 for the whole of the previous 12 months.