Prison chiefs adopt new code on psychiatric care

PRISON GOVERNORS are to adopt a code of minimum psychiatric standards in an effort to improve care of the large numbers of mentally ill people detained in the country's 128 jails.

The Home Office is also devising a series of pilot schemes to buy in greater supervision and services from the National Health Service.

While one of the main aims of ministers is to move as many disordered offenders as possible into hospitals, the reality is that lack of beds and other provision in the community means that most remain in jail.

Studies have shown that about a quarter of the 47,000-plus prison population has psychiatric problems.

The moves come in response to widespread criticism of the Prison Medical Service and in particular its psychiatric services following the doubling of prison suicides in the 1980s. The Home Office's own scrutiny report two years ago was also damning of the medical service's isolation from mainstream medicine.

Although it fell short of reformers' demands that the NHS take over responsibility for prison hospitals completely, the scrutiny report urged much closer alignment with the health service and called for more civilian doctors and nurses to be given contracts to work in jails instead of career prison service staff.

The Home Office has devised 20 pilot schemes around the country which include buying in clinical as well as psychiatric care from the NHS. On the Isle of Wight, for example, officials are negotiating a contract with health authorities to provide all health care in the island's three prisons, Albany, Parkhurst and Camp Hill.

Two lined up for increased NHS psychiatric care are Brixton jail in south London and Feltham young offenders' centre in west London - both deal with large numbers of the mentally ill and, in the past, both have had spates of suicides.

The Home Office cites the new jail, Belmarsh in south-east London, which buys in two full-time NHS psychiatrists. Through their contacts, they are able to move the seriously ill into hospitals within about three days of diagnosis compared with, for example, Brixton prison which currently takes on average two weeks.

Proposed minimum standards which also govern staff training and improved qualifications include allocating a named doctor and health care worker to each patient; ensuring patients have as much time out of their cells as possible - ideally 12 hours to include 6 of clinically advised activity; and that there is through care after the prisoner is released or transferred.

But last night, while the changes were welcomed, there was criticism that there was no date for implementation and that reform did not go far enough to address the 'services' punitive and out-dated medical culture'.

Ian Bynoe, legal director of Mind, the mental health charity, said: 'Better health care will need more than just an NHS label. Staff must be accountable to prisoner patients in new and effective ways, ensuring that they get NHS specialist treatment when they need this.'

Mr Bynoe and Stephen Shaw, of the Prison Reform Trust, feared the Treasury axe might fall on both NHS resources and on Home Office contract funding, scuppering the proposals, leaving many services untouched and prisoners without the treatment they needed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Sport
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn