Report finds prisoner care in poor health

Theresa Fyffe

A top nurse has claimed there is “little evidence” that prisoners’ health has improved since the NHS assumed responsibility for inmates in 2011, The Herald reports.

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said the findings of a review carried out by the organisation into the transfer of prisoner care between the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and the NHS made for “uncomfortable reading”.

Ms Fyffe said: “We had hoped to say that it had done more than it has – but that doesn’t mean it can’t do more.”

Only a third of nurses who were previously employed by the SPS before the transfer thought that mental health services had gotten better under the NHS, while 22 per cent actually thought they had worsened.

My Fyffe cited mental health as a serious concern because of the significant rate of issues including depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders in the prison population.

The report also found that the system is failing patients with long-term conditions such as dementia and cancer and the number of inmates aged over 50 has increased by 50 per cent in five years.

Nurse morale was also a source of concern in the report. It found that, in 2011, 90 per cent of nurses said criminal justice nursing was rewarding, but only 63 per cent thought so in the latest survey.

Respondents said that prison healthcare spending was “bottom of the funding point”.

Ms Fyffe said: “It’s a subject that nobody wants to talk about because people say ‘don’t spend money on them – throw away the key’. But when you have someone you’ve treated with a mental health condition leave prison and the next minute they’re back in again with the same or more problems – the ‘revolving door’ -– that’s not the best use of resources either.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “A successful transition from custody back to the community is key to reducing reoffending, and ensuring basic needs are met for issues like healthcare and welfare is essential to that reintegration.”