HMP Liverpool: Inmates dying in UK jail due to lack of healthcare, finds report

Three inmates died in two months due to lack of support for mental health, according to whistleblowers

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 19 December 2017 14:02 GMT
A leaked Inspectorate report reveals conditions at HMP Liverpool, which holds 1,100 male prisoners, are the worst they had seen
A leaked Inspectorate report reveals conditions at HMP Liverpool, which holds 1,100 male prisoners, are the worst they had seen (PA)

Prisoners in a UK jail are dying due to an “impoverished” healthcare system which saw three inmates take their own lives within two months, according to reports.

A leaked inspectors’ report reveals HMP Liverpool offered a “lack of support” for inmates with mental health needs. Whistleblowers corroborated this, saying inmates have died as a result of poor care.

In the report published by the BBC, inspectors state that conditions at the jail, which holds 1,100 male prisoners, are the worst they had seen.

Of the three inmates who killed themselves, the first did so at the prison’s healthcare unit, staff said, while the second suicide came after the inmate was not given a secondary screening – a national requirement.

The third death was a man who had reportedly been waiting nearly 17 hours to see a prison GP.

Another inmate was reportedly left with life-changing injuries after staff failed to notice for 12 hours that he had broken his neck, despite a medic checking on him.

A second man told the BBC he was left waiting so long to see a dentist about a toothache that he was forced to “remove the roots himself”.

Whistleblowers said that on some occasions, potentially life-saving drugs – such as warfarin and insulin – were not available despite being prescribed to prisoners, and that sometimes mistakes also led to inmates getting double doses of certain drugs.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which has provided healthcare services at the prison for two years, said it inherited some very significant challenges from the previous provider.

It apologised, saying improvements had been made, but that the scale of the changes needed has limited its ability to address everything.

Richard Burgon, Shadow Justice Secretary, told The Independent the “shocking” picture of conditions in the Liverpool prison was the culmination of “years of failed Conservative policies and drastic cuts to prison budgets and staff”.

He continued: “Our prison system is there to keep society safer and to rehabilitate. Nobody should be forced to live in Dickensian squalor with rat- and cockroach-infested cells, blocked toilets and dangerously inadequate healthcare provision.

“With reports of deaths and serious injury due to poor care, lives are clearly at risk. Immediate action is needed to carry out repairs to make the prison habitable and to offer decent healthcare provision that everyone has the right to.”

Mr Burgon urged the Government to “urgently outline what action it is taking to address some of the worst conditions prison inspectors have reportedly ever seen”.

Cody Lachey, a former prisoner who served time in two Manchester jails and has friends who have been in HMP Liverpool, told The Independent he was “not at all” surprised by the findings.

“Broken sanitation for weeks on end with little or ventilation, vermin- and cockroach-infested rooms, broken windows and shocking health care that have seen prisoners take their own lives,” the 33-year-old said.

“It’s hell on earth. The prison isn’t fit for purpose and should be closed down. It’s beyond words, yet sadly the Ministry of Justice and the powers that be try their best to keep stories getting out by refusing to comment.

He added: “On the sign outside HMP Liverpool, its states ‘A 21st century prison’ – when the truth is it’s more reminiscent of Dickensian England. The Ministry of Justice seems to believe that prison should be all about punishment, but that’s wrong.

“The punishment of prison is losing your liberty – after that it should be about reform and rehabilitation.”

The report comes after The Independent revealed young offenders are also being deprived of adequate healthcare.

An analysis of Ofsted inspections showed that children in custody were facing a “significant shortfall” in mental health provision, with some given no access to psychology services or having to wait more than half a year for treatment.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week warned that record-high levels of self-harm in prisons were a “damning indictment” of the current state of the mental health provision in jails across England and Wales.

The committee said long-standing understaffing and increased prevalence of drugs in jails have led to “deep-rooted failures” in the management of prisoners’ mental health, adding that the Government did “not know where they are starting from” in improving the situation.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust recognises that the system is failing some of the prison population, we have a part in that; however, this is multifactorial.

“Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has put a huge amount of energy and money into trying to improve the prison healthcare service at HMP Liverpool but has not succeeded as much as we would have hoped, and we are sorry about that.”

The Ministry of Justice said it didn’t comment on leaked Inspectorate reports.

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