Health of Norfolk prisoners to be examined at meeting

Norwich MP Chlose Smith is to meet with bosses and staff at HMP Norwich later this week . Photo : St

HMP Norwich. - Credit: Steve Adams

The mental and physical health of Norfolk's prisoners will be discussed at a council meeting on Thursday.

The health overview and scrutiny committee will be looking at the health services of Norfolk’s three prisons: HMP Norwich, HMP Bure, in Badersfield,  and HMP Wayland, in Watton. 

A representative from NHS England and NHS Improvement - the group responsible for commissioning all prison health services - will be answering questions on how services have adjusted to respond to Covid, staffing levels and complaints.

A Freedom of Information Request recently revealed a serious coronavirus outbreak at Norwich prison, with hundreds of inmates contracting the virus since November. 

Ahead of the meeting reports from the independent monitoring board (IMB) were presented to the committee.

The board said health care at HMP Norwich was broadly in line with the community, but waiting times for dentistry had become unsatisfactory.  

HMP Wayland standards were also listed as equivalent to the community but under greater stress.  

The board noted there had been a greater emphasis on mental health at HMP Wayland since a new contract was awarded in 2019, with seven-day service and a psychiatrist visiting two times a week.

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However, the IMB raised concerns about the lack of dentist provision and short staffing. 

"This under-supply of staff had increased the treatment and appointment waiting times in excess of that in the general community,” the report said. 

The IMB also raised concerns about its ability to monitor healthcare at HMP Norwich and Wayland, after being excluded from healthcare meetings since a contract change in April 2019.  

At HMP Bure the report was positive overall, noting that good staffing levels had been maintained and the number of GP visits had increased. 

The report to committee members also outlines complaints from healthcare providers.

Up to September 2020, HMP Wayland had already received 164 complaints from providers, Norwich 115 and Bure 43.  

In relation to coronavirus protection, the Ministry of Justice previously said there had been "carefully implemented measures" introduced, including rolling out mass testing.

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