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Medical staff shortage risking lives of detainees

A shortage of medical staff for detainees in the East of England is putting lives at risk, a health worker has warned.

The BBC is reporting that a health worker, who asked not to be named, told them staffing numbers are so low they are struggling to meet the needs of detainees.

Medical services for detainees in the area are contracted out to G4S in a £5m deal. It started in April this year and covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The worker said that currently one doctor is on call to cover every custody suite in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, while another covers Norfolk and Suffolk.

Before the new contract each county had one doctor to cover the area.

Managing director of G4S Public Services, John Shaw: “We recognise that our colleagues have been under pressure as the new service is ramped up and we are currently recruiting 16 additional full-time equivalent medical professionals so that we can deliver even better results for police forces, detainees, and ultimately taxpayers.”

The new role the medical workers carry out includes drink and drugs tests on detainees and attending sudden deaths. When called upon, they are expected to reach cells within an hour.

The health worker told the BBC: "It's impossible to get around to see everybody who needs to be seen because the staff are not there and it's going to end up causing someone to be extremely unwell or a death in custody.

"Staff are breaking down in tears on the job. We are all so overworked.

"When we do arrive on site we are greeted by police with anger because they have been waiting for medics to arrive to attend to healthcare needs of detainees for five to eight hours at times."

Shaw explained: ­“At the beginning of April we started putting in place a service which is smarter, more efficient and which allows police forces in the East of England to draw on medical resources from across the region during times of peak demand or in response to particular operations.”

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