Karen Yates – Associate Solicitor and Head of Private Client – explains the Herbert Protocol: The protocol for when a vulnerable person goes missing.

It is extremely distressing when an elderly family member or friend goes missing, especially if they have dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease or other care and support needs.  At times of high stress, it can be hard to think of all the important pieces of information that the police may need to help them with their search – this is where the Herbert Protocol comes in.

What is the Herbert Protocol?

The Herbert Protocol is a national scheme introduced by the police, in partnership with other agencies, that encourages family members, care providers and friends to compile a record of key information about a vulnerable person that could be used by the police if the person goes missing.  For those living with, or caring for, people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, this can offer some peace of mind.

The protocol is named after George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived in a care home.  Mr Herbert, who had dementia, went missing and sadly died whilst searching for his childhood home.

What does the Protocol involve?

The Protocol consists of a form that is kept at home, or in a safe place, or if the vulnerable person resides in a care home, it can be kept on their file.

The form sets out essential and important information about a vulnerable person.  It does not replace existing safeguarding and security measures but is simply an extra tool to be used to quickly locate a vulnerable person.  The police will only ever ask for the form if the person is reported missing.

Alerting the police as soon as possible will maximise the chance of locating the person quickly and safely.  It is also useful to tell the police operator that the Herbert Protocol is in place for the missing person and the location of the form.

Who should complete the form?

The person at risk, family members, friends or care providers can complete the form.

Permission to complete the form should be sought from the person at risk.  If this is not possible, the family member, friend or care provider should make a ‘best interests’ decision.

What information should be recorded on the form?

Information to be recorded includes:-

  • basic details – full name, nicknames, languages spoken, age, gender;
  • physical description – including build, height, weight, hair colour and distinguishing features such as birthmarks, scars and tattoos;
  • physical capabilities and mobility – including eyesight, hearing, ability to communicate, physical disabilities, mobility aids and access to vehicles;
  • routine – friends, contacts, previous addresses, childhood address;
  • life history – including schools/colleges/universities attended, previous jobs, hobbies and interests;
  • places – including favourite places frequented, routes taken and significant places in the past (e.g. where they went on holiday, where they got married);
  • technology – whether they have on them a tracker, other GPS enabled device or a mobile phone;
  • next of kin and other important contacts e.g. carer, family, friends and professionals such as GP;
  • medical history – including health conditions, essential medication, effects if medication not taken, what calms the person if they are stressed, the best way to approach them;
  • point of contact when they are found.

It is also recommended that several copies of an up to date photograph of the person are kept with the form.

How to obtain a copy of the form

All police forces involved in the Protocol have slightly different versions of the form, which is available to download from their respective websites.

The form and further details can be found on the Greater Manchester Police website at www.gmp.police.uk/Herbert.

What to do with the form once it has been completed

The form should be kept electronically (if possible) and in a place where it can be quickly located should the need arise.

It is a good idea to have the information with family members or people who may identify the person as missing (e.g. care home, neighbour).

As the form contains a lot of personal data it should be stored securely in accordance with data protection laws to protect the person’s privacy.  However, if the person goes missing, sharing the information with professionals, including the police, will become necessary.

Keep a note of who has a copy of the form so that they can be provided with updated copies if the form needs to be updated in any way.

For more information about Karen and her work, please click HERE.

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