Staff and patients welcome sniffer dogs to find illegal drugs on psychiatric unit

Staff and patients of psychiatric units in London have welcomed the use of police sniffer dogs to find illegal drugs on their wards, it has been reported.

The dogs were used in 16 police searches of nine wards run by the Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust over 12 months, the Hampstead and Highgate Express newspaper reported.

Officers found two crack pipes and two cannabis joints.

Uniformed police took dogs to the Highgate Mental Health Centre in Dartmouth Park Hill, Highgate, and the Huntley Centre at St Pancras Hospital, Camden Town.

A trust spokesman told the newspaper earlier this month that it was part of an ongoing attempt to ensure patients were kept safe. In the past, staff used breathalysers to check patients had not been drinking.

Liz Jones, director of nursing at the trust, was reported as saying: “We are pleased the use of drug dogs on our wards has been well received by service users and staff.

“It is great reflection of the fact that everyone has a right to be treated and work on wards without the spectre of illicit drugs being present.

“The use of drugs such as cannabis is known to have a detrimental effect on those recovering from mental illness and is a problem we want to address.

“The initial effectiveness of the pilot scheme has been encouraging. We will continue to carefully monitor the impact and seek the views of service users and staff.”

A questionnaire that prompted the scheme found half of staff and patients had seen drugs being used on the wards.

In a report to the trust’s board, researchers said they believed the small amount found could be because patients no longer stashed their drugs but instead used them immediately.

The report also highlighted an increase in the use of khat, the highly addictive chewing leaf used widely in West Africa.

It found that cannabis was the most widely used drug on mental health wards and that there had been an increase in the number of people found smoking it over the past year. But researchers said this was also because of a change in the way incidents were reported.

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