Beds, Herts & Bucks

Woodhill prison mental health staffing 'insufficient'

Exterior view of HMP Woodhill Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption Inspectors said more staff were needed to cater for inmates' health needs

Mental health staffing levels at a jail where nine inmates have committed suicide since 2012 are "insufficient", a report has said.

Healthcare services at HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes were inspected by the Care Quality Commission amid concerns over the number of deaths.

While staff had the necessary skills, there were not enough of them, the inspectors found.

The NHS trust which runs the service said more staff had been recruited.

Inspectors visited the Category A prison in September.

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They concluded the jail's mental health team, which consisted of three nurses, an interim deputy head and a clinical lead, was "insufficient to meet the needs" of the inmate population.

While practitioners had the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver effective care and treatment, staff shortages in both its primary healthcare and mental health teams had been an issue for a "significant length of time", inspectors said.

Patients in crisis were seen promptly, but inspectors were concerned others with longer-term mental health issues might not have their needs met.

CQC told Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which provides services for the prison, it must ensure both its primary and mental healthcare teams are "fully staffed".

Dr Shamir Patel, clinical director of offender care at the trust, said they accepted the report and added: "There needs to be a focus on improvement across the whole prison system."

He added: "It's been a very hard time at the prison with the high number of deaths and we share the concerns of all the families who have lost loved ones."

New clinicians had been recruited and were "waiting for employment clearances", he said.

HMP Woodhill opened in 1992 and can hold 819 inmates.

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