Police criticised for response to concerns over vet nurse who died after overdosing on animal medicine

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Shortcomings have been identified in how both Humberside and Lincolnshire Police responded to reports of concerns for the safety of a vulnerable vet nurse who died after overdosing on animal medicine.

Helen Turrell, 33, left the Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby at around on February 18, 2016 after being rushed to hospital following a reported overdose of insulin.

She died four hours later, at around 4am on February 19.

An inquest at Lincoln Cathedral Centre concluded that Helen died by her own actions from a canine insulin overdose but there was insufficient evidence she intended to take her own life.

Following this, a memorandum to make clear responsibilities between police and the ambulance service in responding to concerns for the welfare of vulnerable patients was recommended by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

The IPCC investigation found that the ambulance service telephoned Humberside Police, the force which covers the hospital, to report a concern for her safety.

It took Humberside Police until 1.45am to inform Lincolnshire Police, which covers Helen’s home address in North Cotes, who subsequently upgraded the incident to urgent.

However, the officers who were intended to be deployed to her home address were redeployed to another urgent incident.

A police officer eventually attended her home outside Grimsby at around 4am, four hours after the initial report to Humberside Police, and two hours after the report to Lincolnshire Police.

Helen was found unresponsive and declared deceased by paramedics shortly afterwards.

The IPCC investigation concluded that some of the delays in police response were avoidable, mainly due to communication issues between the two forces and the ambulance service, especially in terms of assessing the risk.

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

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.”

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