To ask the Secretary of State for Health what level of access to (a) prescription medicines and (b) psychiatric care prisoners have.
The Government are committed to providing a health service to prisoners that is equivalent in quality and range to that in the wider community. Prisoners are entitled to the same range and quality of services provided and commissioned by the national health service as is received by the general public.
Primary care trusts (PCTs) which host prisons became responsible for commissioning services to meet the healthcare needs of prisoners in April 2006.
In each prison, a patient focused, primary care based pharmacy service, based on identified need, should be provided to prisoners as recommended in the document 'A Pharmacy Service for Prisoners' (Department of Health 2003). Copies have been placed in the Library, and are available on the Department's website.
Similarly, for mental health services, all prisoners receive health screening on reception into prison. Prisoners who are identified as needing further psychiatric help can be referred to a mental health in-reach team, who will arrange further assessment and follow up referral.
Investment in prison mental health in-reach services has been steadily increasing, with nearly £20 million invested in these services each year since 2004-05, and 360 whole time equivalent staff employed, more than the initial commitment in the NHS Plan to create 300 posts.
People who are mentally too ill to remain in prison should be transferred to hospital. We have introduced tighter monitoring to identify prisoners waiting an unacceptably long period for transfer to hospital, and a protocol was issued to prisons and primary care trusts in October 2005 setting out what must be done when a prisoner has been waiting for a hospital place for more than three months following acceptance by the NHS.
These measures have helped bring about positive results. In 2006, 33 per cent. more prisoners, with mental illness too severe for prison, were transferred to hospital than in 2002—up to 961 from 723. There has been a significant decrease in the number of people waiting over 12 weeks for a transfer—in the quarter ending March 2007, 40 prisoners were waiting, down from 51 in the same quarter in 2005.