Prisoners with severe mental health problems should be transferred and treated in hospital whenever possible. To help facilitate quicker transfers, a protocol has been issued setting out what must be done when a prisoner has been waiting for a hospital place for more than three months following acceptance by the NHS. Tighter monitoring has also been introduced to identify prisoners waiting an unacceptably long period for transfer.
In 2005, 24 per cent more prisoners with mental illness too severe for prison were transferred to hospital than in 2002—up to 896 from 722. In the quarter ending September 2006, 43 prisoners had been waiting over 12 weeks for a transfer, down from 58 in the same quarter in 2005.
We are looking to further reduce the national waiting time standard for transfers between custodial settings and hospitals and pilots of a 14-day maximum wait will take place in 14 mental health trusts this year. A protocol specific to the transfer to hospital of young people in the secure estate with severe mental illness is also being developed.
Mental health services for prisoners have been a key part of the Government's recent reforms of health services for prisoners. The Department of Health is now investing nearly £20 million a year in NHS mental health in-reach services for prisoners. These are community mental health teams working within prisons and are now available in 102 prisons, with some 360 extra staff employed. Every prison in England and Wales has access to these services.
A new commissioning framework, developed on behalf of the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Youth Justice Board and the Department for Education and Skills is shortly due to be issued setting out best practice guidelines for commissioning child and adolescent mental health services for children in secure establishments, including young offender institutions.