HMP Bronzefield: 'Severe shortage' of nurses at baby death jail
A women's prison where a newborn baby died has "severe shortages" of nurses and problems in accessing mental health support for inmates, a report says.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) inspected HMP Bronzefield in Surrey before the baby died in September.
It found an increased number of inmates with "complex" mental health issues, while the healthcare unit constantly operated at, or close to, capacity.
Sodexo, which runs the jail, said it would "develop a robust action plan".
The death of the baby at the prison - the largest women's jail in Britain - is the subject of a separate inquiry.
The IMB said the quality of the staff on the healthcare unit was high and "their handling of the challenging and complex prisoners in their care is admirable".
However, lack of staff meant clinics were frequently cancelled, and in June only 11 of the 30 nursing posts were filled.
A "disturbing rise" in levels of self-harm was noted, exacerbated by a "significant" number of women diagnosed with personality disorders, the report said.
The IMB criticised the amount of time it took to transfer inmates with severe mental illness to secure mental health facilities, saying "it considers their prolonged detention in normal prison conditions to be inhumane".
While prisoners were treated "fairly and with respect", rehabilitation was flagged as a concern, the IMB said.
In a survey of 116 randomly selected prisoners, 55% said they would be homeless on release.
About a third of the 540 prisoners spend less than three weeks at the prison, and staff did not have enough time to find accommodation for them.
Alison Keightley, chair of the IMB at Bronzefield, said effective rehabilitation was undermined by the "desperate shortage of suitable housing in London and the south east".
The Prison Reform Trust's Jenny Earle said: "This report details the pointless imposition of short custodial sentences.
"With no home, and too little support, many of these women are simply being set up to fail."
Ian Whiteside, director at HMP Bronzefield, said he was pleased the report "highlights the positive relationship between our prisoners and staff" and the action plan would address the IMB's recommendations.