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Mental Health in Prisons inquiry


Despite setting ambitious objectives for providing mental health services to prisoners, the Government does not know how many people in prisons have a mental illness, or how much it is spending on treating them, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The NAO estimates that c.£400 million was spent in 2016–17 on prisoners’ healthcare in England. This included treatment for 7,917 mental health patients. However, surveys carried out by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that 31,328 prisoners (37% of the prison population) reported mental health or well-being issues.

Incidents of self-harm and self-inflicted death in prisons are increasing with 120 self-inflicted deaths in 2016—the highest on record. The Prisons and Probation Service estimated that 70% of prisoners who ended their own life between 2012 and 2014 had mental health needs.

Clinical care to prisoners is considered good, but identification of those who need mental health services is not consistent. Prisoners are screened upon arrival but staff do not have access to GP records. With a 30% reduction in public prison staff between 2009– and 2017 it is harder to detect changes in prisoners’ health, whilst in private prisons HM Prisons and Probation Service does not monitor the quality of healthcare provided.

The Public Accounts Committee will ask NHS England, HM Prisons and Probation Service and Ministry of Justice about how they are working together to secure reliable data on incidences of mental illness among prisoners, why reliable data does not yet exist, and how at a time of budgetary pressure they will ensure to provide healthcare provision to those prisoners who need it.