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Health Services (Prisons)

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what mechanisms are deployed to ensure appropriate financial management of funds allocated to provide health services in prisons; and if she will make a statement; (96154)

(2) if she will assess the (a) role and (b) funding for primary care trusts in the provision of health services in prisons; and if she will make a statement.

Allocations are made to primary care trusts (PCTs) for the provision of healthcare services in prisons. At present, these funds are provided in addition to baseline budgets. Their use is audited by the Audit Commission in line with their overall duty to monitor financial management in the national health service.

The role of PCTs in commissioning prison health services is continually assessed. The Healthcare Commission is responsible for assessing the performance of NHS bodies, and so prison health services are reviewed as part of the overall assessment of each PCTs performance.

Health services inside prisons are inspected by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) under arrangements set out in a formal memorandum of understanding with the Healthcare Commission. HMIP will continue to inspect against their expectations, which are revised against NHS standards ‘Better Standards for Health’, for the quality of the delivery of services.

This memorandum is available on the Healthcare Commission website at:

Prison health partnership boards oversee the management of prison health services in every prison. These boards comprise prison governors, PCT commissioners, PCT directors of finance, strategic health authority prison health leads, and heads of healthcare. These partnerships are expected to target investment and improvement on priorities identified in local health needs assessments and prison health improvement plans.

Investment in prison health services is increasing. In total, the Government will be investing around £200 million on prison health services in 2006-07–a substantial increase on the £118 million spent in 2002-03.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the (a) demand for and (b) access to dental services within the prison estate; and if she will make a statement. (96156)

In April 2003, the Department and Her Majesty's Prison Service produced a strategy for modernising prison health services. This included a recommendation that, as a guide, prisons should aim to provide at least one dental session per week for every 250 prisoners. The strategy was backed by a three-year investment programme of £4.75 million, with a top priority being to reduce waiting lists for dental treatment. All prisons in England have produced action plans outlining how they will meet the requirements of the strategy including improving access to dental care.

In April 2005, the primary care trusts (PCTs) that host prisons became responsible for commissioning services, including dental services, to meet the healthcare needs of prisoners. PCTs are now responsible for assessing needs and developing services to reflect these needs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the (a) provision and (b) availability is of (i) eye tests and (ii) professional opticians within prison establishments; and if she will make a statement. (96158)

Prisoners are eligible for free sight tests and any necessary optical appliances under the national health service, and they are exempt from any NHS charges. Funding for optical services, and decisions on optical services and opticians available inside the prison, are the responsibility of the commissioning primary care trust.