Northern Ireland

PSNI custody suites get full-time nurses

Nurse in custody suite
Image caption Having nurses on-site means people who have been arrested do not have to be taken to hospital for assessment

Northern Ireland police custody suites are getting their first full-time nurses.

Previously, the custody suites have not had nurses on site, meaning those under arrest had to be be assessed and then brought to hospital.

Musgrave in Belfast is the biggest custody suite in Northern Ireland and the first station to make such a move.

The eight other custody suites will have on-site nurses by April 2020.

The nine nurses in Musgrave conduct assessments, give treatment and provide advice and guidance to detainees and police staff.

Helping people in custody with mental health issues is also a large of part of their work.

Image caption Musgrave in Belfast city centre is Northern Ireland's biggest custody suite

Last month, a report from the Audit Office said Northern Ireland's justice system is being used as a last resort for people with mental health issues.

A report found nearly two-thirds of people arrested by police had a mental health issue.

Many custody suites across the UK have had custody nurses for years.

One of the new nurses spoke anonymously to the BBC about her new job.

She said: "We're all up for a challenge. We all wanted to do something new.

"I've nearly 20 years' experience working in emergency care and this is an area that needs a healthcare focus on it."

Image caption People being held in police cells often have mental health problems

When asked about personal safety, the nurse said: "We all feel very supported and safe working in this environment. Our patients respect us and nursing, we have no fears or concerns.

"We have a high percentage of the custody population who have complex mental health needs.

"As we push the service forward we will be working beside mental health nurses really focusing in on mental health needs.

"I don't think there is a big difference between working in a hospital and working in a police station - we are affording healthcare to people who need it.

"They are patients and that's what we said from day one, people who have healthcare needs."

One person who recently passed through Musgrave even wrote to the nurses to thank them for their care.

They said: "I just wanted to say thank you, the nurses were fantastic, the compassion and care they showed me due to my mental health and suffering from major anxiety and panic attacks.

"I want to thank everyone who was understanding of my panic attacks in custody, I thought it deserved an email to say a huge thank you."