INSPECTORS raised serious concerns yesterday about staffing levels in health services for a high-security prison which has seen a spate of inmate deaths.
A Care Quality Commission report said HMP Woodhill’s mental health team — consisting of just three nurses, an interim deputy head and a clinical lead — was “insufficient to meet the needs” of the jail’s population.
The primary healthcare and mental health teams at the Milton Keynes facility had experienced staffing shortages for a “significant length of time” inspectors found.
Staff had the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver effective care and treatment but reduced personnel levels meant they could not provide a full range of services, the report found.
It said the mental health team did not use agency staff, warning: “Essentially this meant that the relatively small mental health team … was providing a ‘crisis’ service to the prison population.”
While inspectors were assured patients in crisis were seen promptly, they expressed concern that patients with enduring mental health issues who required access to secondary services may not have had their needs met.
The prisons watchdog raised concerns last year after there had been a string of nine self-inflicted deaths at the jail since 2012.
The CQC told Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which provides prison’s health services, that it must ensure the primary healthcare and mental health team are “fully staffed.”
Trust clinical director of offender Dr Shamir Patel said: “We accept this CQC report and what it requires us to do, but we also welcome it — there needs to be a focus on improvement across the whole prison system.
“It’s been a very hard time at the prison with the high number of deaths and we share the concerns of all the families who have lost loved ones and it is them we are thinking of now.”
He said the report “spells out many good ways shared learning takes place but also points up some weaknesses.
“We accept that there are high vacancy rates though rotas are usually topped-up with temporary staff.
“We have recruited clinicians who are waiting for employment clearances, which, perhaps understandably, take a long time.”