Independent Police Complaints Commission
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Recommendation made following investigation into police response prior to death of woman in Grimsby

A memorandum to make clear responsibilities between police and the ambulance service in responding to concerns for the welfare of vulnerable patients has been recommended by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) following an investigation into the death of a woman in Grimsby.

Helen Turrell was taken to the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital by ambulance on 18 February 2016 after a reported overdose of insulin. Shortly after arriving at hospital she left of her own free will. Soon after at approximately midnight the ambulance service telephoned Humberside Police, the force which covers the hospital, to report a concern for her safety.

Further contacts were made between ambulance control, the hospital and Humberside Police, before the force informed Lincolnshire Police, which covers Ms Turrell’s home address, of the incident at 1.45 am. Approximately four hours after the initial report to Humberside Police, and two hours after the report to Lincolnshire Police, at around 4 am on 19 February 2016 a police officer attended Helen’s home outside Grimsby where she was found unresponsive. Ms Turrell was declared deceased by paramedics shortly afterwards.

The IPCC investigated the actions of, and communication between, both police forces in responding, including risk assessments undertaken and the timeliness of attending Ms Turrell’s address.

The investigation found that Humberside Police took one hour 34 minutes to inform its neighbouring force, Lincolnshire Police of the initial report. Upon receipt of this report Lincolnshire Police upgraded the incident to ‘urgent’. Officers were then deployed to the home address however were unfortunately re-deployed to another urgent incident, delaying initial attendance at her home.

In the IPCC investigator’s opinion some of the delay in the police response was avoidable. This resulted in part from issues with communication between the police and the ambulance service and the assessment of risk.

IPCC Associate Commissioner, Tom Milsom, said: “I offer my condolences to the family of Helen Turrell at this difficult time. Our investigation found some shortcomings in the way the two police forces handled their response to the report of concern for Helen’s safety.

“We have identified a number of organisational learning points for the two forces to consider, including the need to review how they liaise with the Ambulance Service and local hospitals when someone has left an A&E department without being assessed, in order that the most effective and swift response is provided.”

Following the investigation, with the agreement of the IPCC, Humberside Police dealt with five staff members over unsatisfactory performance and Lincolnshire Police decided to give management action to two police officers.

The IPCC investigation began in March last year following referrals from both police forces and concluded in February. Issuing findings has awaited an inquest. At the inquest at Lincoln Cathedral Centre a jury returned a finding today that Helen Turrell died by her own actions from a canine insulin overdose but there was insufficient evidence she intended to take her own life.


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