In September 2022, we joined with the PSNI to launch the Herbert Protocol across Northern Ireland, an information-gathering tool that helps find a missing person with dementia as quickly as possible.
The Herbert Protocol is being rolled out nationwide by Dementia NI in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Department of Health and Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.
We want to encourage everyone across Northern Ireland who is living with dementia - and their family, friends and carers - to download the Herbert Protocol form, record vital information on it and store it at home. Having the Herbert Protocol to hand when a loved one is missing can speed up the police search and means the family or carers are not struggling to recall the information when they are stressed.
As part of their ongoing work to achieve change for local people with dementia, our members played an essential role in developing the Herbert Protocol. They co-designed the form with the PSNI, drawing on their experiences of living with dementia to ensure it gathers the right information and making it accessible for people with dementia.
The scheme has already been used successfully in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon localities and is now being rolled out across the whole of Northern Ireland.
We urge anyone across NI who is living with dementia, and families and carers, to go to https://www.psni.police.uk/saf... or click the graphic below to download the form today.
You can also request a printed copy in the post from Dementia NI staff. The form is completed in advance and generally kept in the person’s home or with relatives.
Along with asking for a physical description including height and hair colour, the form also asks questions that give insight into the person’s routines and habits. Is there a place of significance they may have gone to, such as a childhood home or a previous workplace? Does the person have any communication difficulties the police should be aware of? How advanced are their symptoms? Once complete, the form can be kept in a safe place and handed to police if needed.
Superintendent Julie Mullan says, “Every minute is crucial in tracing missing people with complex vulnerabilities, including dementia and so having this information readily available could be very helpful to Police.
“We are pleased to be working with partner agencies on the expansion of this initiative across the whole of Northern Ireland and we would encourage families and carers in the local areas to use this form so that it can be provided to Police if needed.”
Our Member Martin Murtagh, 71, from Belfast, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, says, “It is frightening to get lost when you live with dementia. Once I went out walking alone and ended up at Belfast City Airport. When I arrived, I felt very confused about how or why I had got there. I think I went there because I had been there many times in the past with my wife. I spoke to a bus driver who helped me to get home but I thought to myself, ‘Is this going to happen again?’ The Herbert Protocol allows me to keep my independence and reassures me that should I ever go missing in the future, police will have the information they need to search for me right away."
Martin Murtagh Junior, 48, from Belfast, supports his dad Martin who lives with dementia. He says, “The Herbert Protocol is essential for anyone who has had a loved one with dementia go missing. Dad found it easy to fill in and it provides all the vital details in one place for the police. In the past there have been several occasions where Dad has left his house alone to go for a walk and become disorientated. As a family, we found this very scary and wanted to keep him as safe as possible. I am so glad Dad has filled in the Herbert Protocol form because if he does get lost we will have it ready to pass to police to help find him quickly."
Health Minister Robin Swann endorsed the rollout saying, “The Herbert Protocol form is designed to provide the Police with everything they need to know to find the person who may have gone missing quickly and safely.
“I hope the initiative will be used by people across Northern Ireland. I feel sure that having a completed form will give peace of mind to people living with dementia and their families that should they go missing there is a plan in place to find them safely.”
Clare Watson, Chief Executive of Dementia NI, adds, “We’re thrilled that the Herbert Protocol is being rolled out all over Northern Ireland. The decision by the PSNI, the Department of Health and the CPSP to work in partnership with Dementia NI was greatly welcomed. There are over 20,000 people in Northern Ireland with a dementia diagnosis and that number is projected to double by 2040 so this is an important step towards improving the support local people with dementia get.
“This wouldn’t have happened without our members who campaigned to bring the Herbert Protocol to Northern Ireland and worked with the PSNI to shape the Herbert Protocol form. The introduction of this fantastic initiative shows that practical changes that improve the lives of people with dementia are well within reach when we all work together.”