THE number of police call outs to Borders General Hospital has grown 25 percent over the last three years.

Figures released by Police Scotland show that officers were called to the Melrose hospital 189 times, but by 2018 that number had grown to 240.

In February, it was reported that police had responded to 135 calls to the BGH in the space of just seven months, with Chief Inspector Stuart Reid telling a group of Scottish Borders councillors at the time that the calls were in response to anti-social behaviour and missing persons.

However, the figures also take into account calls logged by civilians and patients, not just NHS staff.

Responding to a request for information on their missing persons policy, an NHS Borders spokesperson said: “In order to maintain patient safety it is not advised for patients to leave healthcare settings without being appropriately treated and discharged. 

“In cases where a specific patient vulnerability is identified, we may restrict access to areas to keep them safe. 

“We have a missing persons/absconding policy which includes escalation to management and police when appropriate.”

NHS Borders also confirmed that while it does employ four security guards, they are only on duty at night, meaning the hospital must rely on the police for security during the day. 

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton, who represents the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency, commented: “Patients who leave the ward without the knowledge of staff cause anxiety and stress to all concerned. 

“However, some patients may be at risk, due to age, physical or mental illness.

“As Chief Inspector Stuart Reid mentioned back in February, the nature of these call outs are resource-intensive.

“There needs to be a better approach and having security during the day will remove the burden on the police.

“I want to thank the hardworking staff at the BGH for all their assistance with the police.

“A cohesive, safe and efficient management procedure for missing persons is welcome but Police Scotland should not be the first port of call, other than in situations where patient and staff safety is at risk.”