HC Deb 21 July 1960 vol 627 cc716-7
33. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the number of the medical staff at each of the Bristol and Exeter prisons, and the number of prisoners allocated to each doctor; and what provision is made for the mental health treatment of the men, in view of the fact that a variety of problems exist and that the need for treatment is greater than among the general public.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dennis Vosper)

At Bristol, with about 400 prisoners, there is one full-time senior medical officer, one full-time senior psychologist—both of whom have certain responsibilities at other prisons— and one part-time medical officer. At Exeter, with about 470 prisoners, there is one part-time medical officer; the medical officer from Dartmoor attends regularly; and the senior medical officer from Bristol visits at intervals. Prisoners are not allocated to a particular medical officer. At both establishments prisoners are referred to outside consultants as may be necessary. Prisoners requiring major psychotherapy are transferred to prisons with special facilities.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my information is that the medical men employed in prisons are overworked and that some have to attend at two or three prisons? If that is so, will he take steps to remedy the position?

Mr. Vosper

The medical men at all prisons work very hard. I have met many of them recently. I should not like to suggest that prisoners are receiving inadequate medical attention. In fact, the ratio in many prisons is better than it is in the Health Service.

Miss Bacon

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a need for review of the prison medical service generally? Since there is about to be a vacancy among the Prison Commissioners, would he consider the appointment of a Commissioner with medical qualifications so that his services could be available to the Prison Commission in this very valuable part of prison life?

Mr. Vosper

We already have a Director of Medical Services in the Prison Commission who occupies a position of some standing. I do not think that the transfer to the rank of Commissioner would achieve anything. Although, on that and the previous supplementary question, I am in agreement that in the prison service they have their problems, on the whole I do not think that they can be accused of not fulfilling their obligations.