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Prisoners: Mental Health

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2018

We are committed to improving the provision of and access to mental health services for those in the justice system. We continue to roll out the keyworker role across the closed male estate so that all prisoners will have a named officer to provide them with dedicated support during their sentence. As the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), said earlier, 14,600 prison staff have now completed at least one module of this training.

Figures show that, in March 2017, 75% of prisoners in England and Wales with serious mental health problems experienced significant delays in their transfer to hospital for treatment. Last month, an independent review of mental health assessment reported delays to transfer, with one of the reasons being the delay by the Ministry of Justice in sanctioning transfers. Given the pressure on those suffering poor mental health, surely this is important enough to require swifter action. What steps is the Minister taking to address the problem?

I became responsible last September for the unit in the Ministry of Justice that authorises the transfer of patients from the criminal justice system into secure accommodation. We have had some internal difficulties, which I inherited, with the staffing of the unit, but things are improving. I get a weekly update on the number of people in the system who need to be transferred. I am under no illusions about the need to expedite those transfers, and I am in weekly contact with the Department of Health and Social Care about the need to assess the capacity at low, medium and high-security levels in the secure accommodation network.