Mentally ill prisoners kept waiting for transfer from women's jail near Wakefield - report findings

Action must be taken to stop mentally ill prisoners facing long waits for transfer from a West Yorkshire jail, a new report has said.

By Georgina Morris
Monday, 3rd February 2020, 5:00 pm

The latest annual report published by HMP and YOI New Hall's Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) calls on the Prison Service to address delays in those prisoners being transferred to more appropriate accommodation.

Read More

Read More
'House of Horrors' murderer moved to Wakefield prison

It also urges the governor to take ensure "healthcare is consistently delivered and sufficient staffing levels are maintained to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the staff and residents alike."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Independent Monitoring Board for HMP/YOI New Hall has published its annual report. Picture: Simon Hulme

The closed women’s prison in Flockton, near Wakefield, can accommodate up to 425 prisoners from the age of 18.

Women with the most complex and challenging mental health issues are housed in Holly House, which is situated above the prison's healthcare unit.

"Holly is staffed by a group of dedicated officers who have no medical training but who deal with some of the most difficult behaviour daily," the report says. "Their compassion and care for those in their charge is exemplary and most commendable."

The IMB report concludes women are treated fairly and humanely at the prison in Flockton, near Wakefield, but long periods behind doors affect their experience and treatment.

New Hall is a closed prison that can accommodate up to 425 women. Picture: Simon Hulme

It continues: "Although not necessarily the prison's fault, the inability to provide an appropriate environment, particularly for those with complex mental health needs, remains an issue."

Healthcare at the prison is overseen by health and social care provider Care UK, which said the most serious issues it faces is the ongoing shortage of nurses and mental health specialists.

A spokeswoman said: "This staff shortage is a national issue across health services, not just in the prison healthcare sector."

She said there was a lack of external secure hospital spaces available to prisoners with severe and complex mental health problems, but it had developed processes to refer ill patients promptly to the right external facilities if spaces were available.

“As well as developing processes to expedite any possible transfers, we are also working hard to encourage more healthcare professionals to enter the sector, offering significant training and career progression opportunities,” she added.

A consultation was carried out last year by NHS England and NHS Improvement which focused on the transfer of individuals to mental health in-patient services and their return to prison. The outcome of the consultation is yet to be published

The IMB report also notes that the Prison Service needs to address and introduce a more robust process to ensure prisoners and their property are not separated during prison transfers.

Work is currently being carried out by the service, with input from IMBs and other stakeholders, to ensure prisoners’ property is not lost when they are transferred.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are pleased that the IMB found HMP New Hall to be a safe and well-run prison, which is helping protect the public through its work preparing offenders for release.

“We are spending £2.75bn to make jails safer for offenders and staff, and with 4,400 additional prison officers recruited, staffing levels are at their highest for eight years.”