POLICE in North Yorkshire are looking at fresh healthcare training for officers to help safeguard against deaths in custody.

North Yorkshire Police said they had started “a rigorous joint commissioning process” for healthcare provision within custody suites across the region.

This includes looking for the best care training from external providers, with a focus on identifying potential problems after people have left custody.

Leanne McConnell, head of criminal justice at North Yorkshire Police, said: “The evaluation team will be made up of very experienced personnel in the fields of police custody and clinical excellence.

“This will ensure we are able to build upon the existing levels of healthcare provision for those individuals passing through our custody suites.

“Individual healthcare needs will be widely assessed by appropriately trained and skilled medical practitioners with a view to improving longer-term healthcare prospects and identifying referral pathways to services that can support a person once they have left custody.

“This will be supported by a robust performance monitoring regime to ensure that the safety and healthcare needs of our detainees are met to the high standards we require.”

Her comments come after Dr Michael Wilks, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Forensic Medicine committee, told the Preventing Deaths in Police Care conference in London that he feared not enough emphasis was being placed on the quality of personnel, and too much focus was on low cost delivery.

Julia Mulligan, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said the importance of the right healthcare was clear,.

She said the force needed to make sure both physical and mental health needs were met.

She also highlighted that the force had opened dedicated facilities for people with mental health problems.

She said: “We are now supporting those particular people much more appropriately.

“[We are now supporting them] in hospitals rather than a custody suite.

“The positive progress made in the last six months or so is very welcome, moving from zero-health-based facilities for sectioned detainees to two, with potentially more opening soon.”

There have been no deaths in North Yorkshire Police custody in the last year.