Police Federation

Better education on ABD needed, says Met Medical Director

12 September 2018

A better understanding of the dangers of Acute Behavioural Disturbance (ABD) in custody detainees is needed amongst healthcare staff, a top doctor has said.

Dr Meng Aw-Yong, Medical Director for the Metropolitan Police and past member of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, spoke at the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Custody Seminar today (11 September).

Dr Aw-Yong said there was a need to raise awareness of the condition amongst healthcare staff, stating that despite it being listed as a medical emergency in The Royal College of Emergency Medicine’s best practice guidelines for the management of ABD, it is often not recognised as such. The guidelines state that ABD is a medical emergency, and that affected individuals may suffer sudden cardiovascular collapse and/or cardiac arrest with little or no warning.

“There’s an education issue,” he said. “Police have much more awareness of ABD than hospital staff.”

Dr Aw-Yong said that a memorandum of understanding with the ambulance service was one way to help healthcare staff understand that ABD can lead to cardiac arrest and is a medical emergency. He added that how that message was conveyed to doctors and nursing staff was vital, thus the duty of care would “hit home”.

Dr Aw-Yong also said that minimising the restraint time for someone with ABD was vital, and that the use of Taser could be considered to help that.

He said: “When the paramedics are there you can consider using Taser to minimise restraint, so you can get in there quicker with minimal injury to the individual healthcare and police personnel and to sedate that person and deliver a medical intervention quicker and safer”.

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