UNDER-RESOURCED health care provision was one of the issues highlighted in a recent report of the facilities at a Marchington prison.
The annual report issued by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HMP Dovegate found health care staff were under pressure.
This was attributed in part due to an ageing prison population, but chairman of the IMB John Dawson said it was not a unique situation to Dovegate, but rather a national trend.
He said: “Across the country, medical staff for prisons are usually temporary or agency staff.
“This means prisoners usually see a different doctor every time.
“However we would like to commend the doctors and nurses who are dedicated people who do their best to meet the prisoners needs.
“There are of course are a high proportion of prisoners with mental health issues, and one finding of the report was that there is not always enough staff to meet these needs.”
The report said: “A notable exception to the high standards which exist in HMP Dovegate is the Healthcare Centre.
“As a building it has been likened by one board member to an old asylum, not conducive to the well-being of those within.
“The unit is commonly home to prisoners in very poor physical or mental condition, which places a huge burden on the dedicated prison custody officers.
“Given the impression that the prison population is ageing and that prisoners’ physical and mental health needs appear to be increasing, can the Minister provide any reassurance that the requirement for healthcare will be adequately resourced in future?”
Another point highlighted in the report was the ‘significant change’ for HMP Dovegate with it’s transition from Category C to Category B status.
The report noted: “A large number of Category C prisoners have at last been moved on so that the prison could accommodate Category B prisoners, for which it is designed.
“Not surprisingly this change somewhat destabilised the prison and seemed to have an effect on staff morale and sickness rates.
“There have been many instances where the number of staff present in a particular location have seemed to the board insufficient.
“The board is concerned therefore about the increased pressure on those staff who are on duty.”
Peter Donnachie, volunteer for the IMB said: “There are a number of improvements which have been made by prison managers; the employment of a new catering manager and extra focus on the attendance of hospital visits.”