Self-harm: Prisoners

Health written question – answered on 25th February 2014.

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Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) if he will commission research to develop treatment guidelines to be followed across the prison estate for males and females who self-harm; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will discuss with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence developing self-harm guidelines within the prison estate;

(3) if he will introduce a minimum threshold for moving an individual out of the prison estate and into a psychiatric setting; and if he will make a statement;

(4) how many randomised trials of treatments for mental health issues and self-harm have been carried out by academic researchers within the prison estate since 2008; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health

Clinicians and healthcare staff treating prisoners in English prisons who self-harm are expected to take National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clinical guidelines into account when making treatment decisions. Copies of this guidance, “Self-harm: the short-term physical and psychological management and secondary prevention of self-harm in primary and secondary care” NICE clinical guideline number 16 (2004) and “Longer-term care and treatment of self-harm” NICE clinical guideline number 133 (2011) have been placed in the Library.

Clinical guideline 133 on longer term care and treatment is due for review by NICE in 2014 and NICE plans to review clinical guideline 16 in 2015. NHS England has no current or confirmed plans to introduce further treatment guidelines specific to treating self-harm in prisons.

Decisions about transferring prisoners with severe mental illnesses (SMI) to secure psychiatric units are clinical decisions based on clinical judgement about the prisoner's need for hospital treatment. Most SMI conditions are treatable within prison. Prisoners are considered for transfer to secure psychiatric units when a prison cannot provide appropriate treatment in the judgement of the consultant psychiatrist in charge of the prisoner's treatment.

NHS England is currently analysing data on self-inflicted deaths across the prison estate to identify trends and to ensure that lessons are learned. This will include initiatives to reduce self-harm amongst prisoners. NHS England is also working with the National Offender Management Service and the Royal College of General Practitioners Secure Environment Group to improve commissioning for prisoners who self-harm and ensure that their physical and mental health needs are met.

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