A report by experts from Glasgow University found several instances of good practice but warned that in general there needs to be better communication between police and the families of people who have disappeared. Relatives are often left carrying out their own searches while police conduct the official hunt separately, the study found.
Dr Hester Parr, from the University of Glasgow's School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said of communication between police and families: "The quality tended to be reliant on individual officers and their approach to family liaison. What is needed is a change to procedures that is adopted through police education and training."
Lucy Holmes, researcher manager at Missing People, said the study, based on interviews with 25 family groups, offered "important insights into the ways in which families search for missing loved ones".
A Police Scotland spokesman said: "These research findings are already being fed into police training at the Scottish Police College as well as the Police National Search Centre and reinforce our experience on the importance of good communication with the families."