Skip to main content

Mental Health Services: Prisons

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many Prison Service staff have received mental health awareness training. (240366)

Between 2006 and 2008, approximately 12,000 front line prison staff received mental health awareness training. The Department no longer collects these figures centrally.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps have been taken by his Department to improve the health of offenders since the publication of Improving Health, Supporting Justice: A Strategy for Improving Health and Social Care Services for People Subject to the Criminal Justice System. (240710)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his most recent estimate is of the number of prisoners suffering from serious mental illness; how many of those prisoners are women; and if he will make a statement. (240743)

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.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many prisoners suffering from severe psychiatric disorders have been diverted from prison to secure psychiatric settings in each year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. (240746)

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.