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Healthcare in prisons is the responsibility of the national health service. My colleague the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing wrote to the Health and Sport Committee on 22 February 2019 to update it on the progress of the health and social care in prisons programme. Developments include better integrated health and social care provision, improved clinical information technology and an innovation fund to improve joint working between the NHS and the Scottish Prison Service. For further information, the letter is available on the Health and Sport Committee’s page on the Parliament website.
Last year, it was revealed that more than 3,800 people who left prison between 2016 and 2018 identified as homeless to local authorities. Without a home, people with convictions struggle to register with general practitioners and to continue with the vital health and social care progress that was started while they were in prison.
I thank Mary Fee for that question, because she raises a hugely important issue. I know that she has a long-standing interest in such matters.
I have met the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning on a regular basis to talk about the sustainable housing on release for everyone—SHORE—standards, which Mary Fee will be familiar with. Pre-liberation and post-liberation throughcare is extremely important in ensuring that someone who comes out of prison has access not just to housing and health services, which Mary Fee rightly mentioned, but to addiction services and so on.
Bearing in mind the need for brevity, I undertake to write to the member with more detail on what we are doing. I would also be happy to meet her to discuss the matter in more detail.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that a sensible way to reduce Scotland’s prison population is by extending the presumption against short periods of imprisonment and putting greater emphasis on community sentences, which was backed by 85 per cent of respondents to the Government’s consultation?