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More occupational therapist support needed in UK prisons

Thursday 25th January 2018
The UKs prison service is in need of more occupational therapists to help provide the appropriate standard of care for inmates, a new report has highlighted. Image: sakhorn38 via iStock
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More support from occupational therapists is needed across the UK's prison service, as a new report has revealed the healthcare offered to inmates at some jails is falling short.

A letter seen by BBC News written by Dr Andrew Forrester of Lancashire Care has highlighted the shortfall in care standards at Liverpool prison, where a lack of trained healthcare staff such as nurses, occupational therapists and mental health specialists often leaves inmates having to wait several days for the care that they require.

Although HM Prison and Probation Service has admitted a "failure" on its part in this area, Dr Forrester's concerns have highlighted that the country's service needs to work much more closely with occupational therapists and other healthcare experts to safeguard both the physical and mental health of inmates.

Last year, there were three inmate suicides at Liverpool prison, while there has been a total of 17 since 2011, which suggests that not all inmates' mental health needs are being met.

Meanwhile, hygiene standards at the prison were found to be inadequate, contributing to health and infection risks.

In addition, Dr Forrester noted in his letter that there have been occasions where inmates have been forced to wait for several days to access appropriate healthcare due to a lack of available staff.

As a result, he stated: "There are major deficits in the areas of clinical psychology, social work and occupational therapy."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, head of HM Prison and Probation Service Michael Spurr acknowledged that more could have been done to help inmates in recent years, but said these failings were "in the context of a system that has been under a lot of pressure for a number of years".

Therefore, there are calls for more funding to be made available from the government to enable more provision for occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals in the UK's prison service.

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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