HC Deb 02 March 1998 vol 307 cc702-3
16. Helen Jones

What plans he has to improve the prison medical service. [30354]

Ms Quin

The Prison Service and the national health service have established a joint working group to advise Ministers on the options for improving prisoners' health care. The group will be looking in particular at whether responsibility should be transferred to the NHS, as recommended by Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons.

Helen Jones

I thank the Minister for that reply, but does she agree that one of the main obstacles to improving the service is the lack of suitably qualified staff? As the Home Office's own figures show that, in a service with a large number of mentally disordered offenders, only 21 of 197 doctors are members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and only 34 per cent. of health care managers are registered nurses, will she assure the House that the working party will consider, as a matter of urgency, the need to recruit more qualified staff into the prison medical service, and to provide an adequate career path to retain them in that service?

Ms Quin

My hon. Friend makes important points, and I pay tribute to her for the keen and detailed interest that she has taken in this matter. We are very keen to improve training in the prison health service, and the working group is considering that as one of its priorities. It is a very important issue to make progress on if we are really to respond to the recommendations that the chief inspector made in his report "Patient or Prisoner?".