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Hundreds of mentally ill prisoners denied urgent treatment in England

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Hundreds of severely mentally ill prisoners in urgent need of hospital treatment are being left in prison cells due to bed shortages in secure NHS psychiatric units, an investigation has discovered.

Freedom of information (FoI) responses from 22 NHS trusts reveal for the first time that just over half of the 5,403 prisoners in England assessed by prison-based psychiatrists to require hospitalisation were not transferred between 2016 and 2021 – an 81% increase on the number of prisoners denied a transfer in the previous five years.

In some areas, the majority of mentally ill prisoners were not admitted, which could be the result of long delays or a trust refusing to take certain patients. Norfolk and Suffolk NHS foundation trust, which was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission last month, only admitted 16 of 41 prisoners referred in 2021. Essex Partnership University NHS foundation trust only admitted 24 of 57 prisoners referred in 2021. Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS foundation trust only accepted 18 of the 38 prisoners referred in 2021.

Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the figures unearthed by the investigation suggested hundreds of very ill people were being denied the treatment they needed.

“It is shocking that a growing number of people are not getting the transfer to hospital that clinicians say is essential for their mental health,” he said. “Instead they are languishing in often overcrowded and dilapidated prisons. It is cruel and guarantees people will leave prison in a worse state than when they came in, with every likelihood that the behaviour that originally led to their arrest and conviction will continue.”

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Source: The Guardian, 10 May 2022

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