To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the 2021 Independent Monitoring Board Report for HMP/YOI Low Newton, what steps he plans to take to (a) ensure that women with severe mental health issues are fast tracked to secure hospitals and (b) reduce the number of women with severe mental health issues in prison.
21 October 2021
We have a responsibility to ensure those in prison receive appropriate care in the right setting, at the right time. Transfer from prison to hospital for those with severe mental health issues can take too long – we acknowledged this in the Government response to the independent review of the Mental Health Act. Since then, NHS England has published guidance to speed up transfers and we have committed to legislate and enshrine a 28-day limit on such transfers in statute. Where a request is received for a transfer to hospital, and the prisoner meets the statutory criteria, a warrant for their transfer should be issued within 7 days.
We are also looking to introduce an independent role to oversee such transfers as part of our reforms to the Mental Health Act.
We have acknowledged that prison should not be used as a ‘place of safety’, where the court can send a person to be temporarily held on the grounds of mental health for their own or others’ protection whilst awaiting an assessment or transfer, and have committed to ending this by amending the Mental Health Act, and putting the necessary operational reforms in place.
More widely, it is essential to ensure that individuals with vulnerabilities are identified early in the criminal justice system. Last year, NHS England secured full coverage of Liaison and Diversion Services in all courts, including women’s pathways to address women’s specific needs. Currently, NHS England is working to enhance these women’s pathways, and a specific women’s lead has been appointed in each service, to work on developing the pathway and appropriately address the needs of female offenders.
We have also invested £9.5m through our Female Offender Strategy to support women’s community services, which provide holistic support to women in contact with the justice system, and those at risk of offending.