POLICE officers are to be given a helping hand by nurses, who are to be drafted in to help deal with drunks and drug addicts taken into custody.
The scheme was piloted by Tayside Police and has dramatically reduced the burden on accident and emergency staff.
It has also led to a fall in the number of police surgeons being called out during the night.
Following the success of pilot, the scheme looks set to spill out across the country.
Detective Chief Super Roddy Ross, from Tayside Police, said: “A large proportion of the people our officers bring in to custody are on the margins of society and have serious problems.
“Normally it’s very difficult for the NHS to get access to them but this scheme addresses that.
“It’s shown that if we can get people quickly referred from custody into care it can have a significant impact on crime.
“It also saves police time because fewer officers are needed to accompany prisoners to accident and emergency wards.”
Nurses will provide the detainees methadone, alcohol referrals, sexual health advice and counselling.
The initiative could also be set to save the taxpayer millions of pounds, as the pilot in Tayside led to a 343 per cent drop in forensic medial examiner call-outs.
Every year, Scottish accident and emergency departments deal with around 21,000 drunks.
Deputy Chief Constable George Graham, from the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: “Considerations are being given to assessing the viability of rolling out this arrangement nationally.
“The primary focus is on cohesive and tangible partnership working practices that will ensure the best health outcome and custody care across Scotland for the people who require it.
“In terms of efficient working practices, it makes sense for forces to collaborate with partners in healthcare.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Tayside pilot, which we have supported, has been very successful in improving the quality of care to people in police custody.
“Interim reports indicate that the pilot has reduced costs in some areas of healthcare provision to those in custody.
“We hope other areas of Scotland will learn from its findings and be encouraged to use it as a template to work collaboratively to improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of services to those in police custody.”