The consultation on the strategy was published on 27 November 2007, and the consultation period finished on 4 March. Responses have been analysed and a written analysis of the consultation responses was published in August 2008. The final strategy will be published in spring 2009 following Lord Bradley's report to Parliament.
No recent assessment has been made. Although there are no officially recognised data on prisoners with severe mental illness, we are aware that there are a number of people in custody suffering from serious mental illness. In 1997, the Office for National Statistics survey indicated that as many as 58 per cent. of male and 75 per cent. of female remand prisoners, and 39 per cent. of male and 62 per cent. of female sentenced prisoners met criteria for a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Rates of psychotic illness were also higher than in the general population.
Accurate identification of people needing mental health treatment and care is important at all stages in the care and offender pathway. This is why all prisoners are screened at reception for risks of mental ill health and previous psychiatric treatment. The Offender Assessment System (OASys) helps to ensure that any person judged to be at risk and/or of needing mental health treatment and care can be identified and referred, where appropriate, to the Mental Health In-Reach Teams.
People who are too mentally ill to remain in prison are transferred to NHS Secure Services. In 2007, 28 per cent. more prisoners, with mental illness too severe for prison, were transferred to hospital than in 2002—up to 926 from 723.
There has been a significant decrease in the number of people waiting over 12 weeks for a transfer. In the quarter ending June 2007, 43 prisoners were waiting, down from 62 in the same quarter in 2005. At the end of December 2007 there were 40 people waiting for a bed for more than 12 weeks. At the end of March 2008 there were only 24 people waiting.
People eligible to be transferred should be moved out of prison as quickly as possible. We have been working to reduce waiting times for beds and we have introduced tighter monitoring to identify prisoners waiting an unacceptably long period.