HC Deb 09 June 1995 vol 261 cc341-2W
Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new proposals he has to improve the care of the mentally ill in prison(a) before sentence and (b) after sentence. [27588]

Mr. Michael Forsyth

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from A. J. Butler to Mr. Paul Flynn, dated 9 June 1995: The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about what new proposals we have to improve the care of the mentally ill in prison (a) before sentence and (b) after sentence. The Prison Service will continue to seek to transfer to psychiatric hospitals those mentally disordered prisoners who meet the criteria laid down in the Mental Health Act 1983. Performance in this respect has greatly improved in recent years but some needs are still not being met. The Department of Health will spend over £47 million between 1991 and 1995 to increase the number of medium secure beds from the 1993 figure of 653 to nearly 1200 by 1996. In addition, health authorities are developing further secure psychiatric places. The Department of Health and the Prison Service have commissioned a study of the transfer process to identify actions that could make this operate more smoothly. A sub committee of the independent Health Advisory Committee to the Prison Service is also looking into the problems which may occur during the assessment and transfer process. It will then examine the arrangements for mentally disordered prisoners' aftercare. We shall consider very carefully any recommendations arising from these studies. The Prison Service is also improving the quality of care and treatment for those mentally disordered offenders who remain in prison custody. The largest group of mentally disordered prisoners, who may not meet the Mental Health Act criteria for transfer to hospital, are those suffering from personality disorder. The principal recommendation of a Task Force, set up to determine the strategy for treating such prisoners, was that a second therapeutic prison, along the lines of Grendon, should be established. We are now giving high priority to the implementation of that recommendation. We are also pursuing a range of other initiatives to improve the quality of treatment offered to prisoners suffering from mental disorders. For example, we plan to extend the "contracting in" of psychiatric services beyond the Durham and Bristol clusters of establishments to others. We shall develop and publish a new Healthcare Standard for the provision of forensic psychiatric services and for throughcare in mental health. We will also be auditing the implementation of Healthcare Standard 2 (Mental Health Services in local prisons and remand centres) at each establishment.