Paddy the sniffer dog is latest recruit at Tower Hamlets mental health centre
- Credit: Archant
Patients at a mental health ward could be forgiven for thinking they were imagining things when they saw Paddy, the sniffer dog among them.
Paddy is a working dog, whose duties usually keep him around south London. However Paddy has been helping to sniff out illegal drugs on the wards at the Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health.
Paddy, a six-year-old springer spaniel, and his trainer, were on loan to East London NHS Foundation Trust from South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, to help sniff out illegal drugs on the wards at the Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health.
Acting Sergeant Alex Farmer, team leader with the Metropolitan Police in Tower Hamlets, was accompanied by five police recruits and one police trainer. The police were on stand-by in case their intervention was required although no drugs were detected during the exercise.
Richard Harwin, the Trust’s Security and Police Liaison Advisor, has been instrumental in bringing together this concerted action to fight illegal drugs on wards. He said: “Ward managers have been concerned about the detrimental effect of drug use, dealing and self-medication on the mental health of their patients and on the safety and security of both patients and staff. This is one of a number of measures we have employed to combat the problem. ”
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The sniffer team searched communal areas and bedrooms as well as garden spaces at the unit.
Clayton Walrond, the security nurse manager, said: “It is an unfortunate fact that people with mental health issues can also have issues with addiction. Drug use can lead to mental health difficulties or be a response to difficulties. Either way, we want to make our wards safer and improve the environment for our patients’ recovery so we think drug searches with a trained dog make sense. It is a signal to inpatients, their families, carers and friends that we don’t tolerate illegal drugs on our wards and will check and take action if we find them.”
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Acting Sergeant Farmer said: “We bring our recruits to the wards so they get early exposure to people and situations where mental health issues have to be balanced carefully with security and legal concerns. Our actions during a drug search such as the one carried out at the unit are guided by the ward team and the overriding concern for health requirements. Yet if necessary and appropriate, we’re there to either advise, issue a warning or make an arrest.”
The Trust’s first drug dog search took place at Newham Centre for Mental Health in November 2013, followed by a visit to the Trust’s other mental health unit, the City & Hackney Centre for Mental Health. Based on the success of those searches, the Trust has now commissioned further searches across the three hospitals.