THE chief constable of Greater Manchester Police has backed a mother’s calls for paramedics to be trained in control and restraint techniques after her daughter died from an accidental overdose.
Sir Peter Fahy said he is concerned that police officers are becoming a “default option” for certain medical emergencies with staff being drawn into “high risk medical emergencies”.
The chief constable was responding to a report by Bolton Coroner Jennifer Leeming following an inquest into the death of 31-year-old mother Caroline Pilkington, who died at the Royal Bolton Hospital in April last year after accidentally over-dosing on the beta-blocker propranolol.
Before her death, Ms Pilkington had been violently fitting at her home in Moss Bank Way and paramedics called police to help restrain her so they could take her to hospital.
The inquest heard that neither the restraining process, nor the extra time allowed for police officers to attend the scene contributed to Ms Pilkington’s death, who had ingested a fatal amount of propranolol.
But Ms Leeming said “it did not sit comfortably” that officers are routinely called to such situations and questioned whether it should be a police service.
During the inquest Ms Pilkington’s mother, Deborah Pilkington, called for paramedics to be trained in control and restraint techniques.
The coroner’s proposals were also sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the North West Ambulance Service.
In his response to Ms Leeming, Sir Peter Fahy said: “I share your concerns about the involvement of police officers in such situations and I have been concerned for some time about the increasing demand that is falling on police from gaps in health services.
“While police officers are trained in restraint, I would suggest that medical emergencies are different — calling police to deal with such emergency situations will cause delay and potentially endanger the patient through failure to take action.”
He added that he agreed with the coroner’s proposals and would be happy to support NWAS in terms of any training initiatives.
But a response from NWAS acting head of legal services, James Down, suggested that control and restraint techniques are “extremely specialised”.
A letter from the Health Secretary agreed, with Mr Hunt stating that, after discussions with NWAS, he believes their paramedics “rightly rely on the North West police forces” to provide control and restraint services when necessary and that it would be “neither appropriate nor beneficial” to train all ambulance staff in the techniques.
Further responses are expected, but Mrs Pilkington, aged 55, who currently lives in Majorca, said: “I don’t feel like I have had any closure for Caroline’s death — I still feel like this problem is going to affect other families and I won’t be happy until something is changed.”