Serious concerns at Wayland Prison, near Watton
An independent report has blamed the 'complete management failure' of a government service company after drug treatment at a Norfolk prison was found to be 'unsafe.'
Following an inspection in June, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons criticised healthcare at Wayland Prison and revealed that staff shortages were having a 'detrimental effect' on prisoner welfare.
Now the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has raised a number of concerns including staffing levels, budget cuts, bullying and the 'deterioration' of healthcare services since Serco was awarded the contract in October last year.
The newly-published report, assessing the prison between June 2010 to May this year, states: 'The complete management failure of Serco within healthcare and the IDTS (integrated drug treatment system) programme has greatly affected many regimes in the prison.
'Recently, the IDTS programme was found to be clinically unsafe. The board fully recognises the hard work and dedication of staff, but they are put under extreme pressure because of staff shortages and morale continues to be very low.
'Our 2009 report suggested that healthcare was a major concern but we saw some improvement in 2010. However, since Serco was awarded the new contract, services have deteriorated.'
Serco is also criticised for failing to settle the team or resolve the issues raised in last year's IMB report.
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'Problems in this area are now more acute and have impacted on the care of prisoners,' it continues.
The board has also questioned how rigorous the prescribing and dispensing of medication is when 'prisoners are prepared to divert their medication for gain as the result of bullying.'
'There has been no officer available to watch the administration of methadone and subutex, resulting in vulnerable prisoners being targeted and bullied into secreting their medication which is then taken from them for trading,' the report continues.
'New prisoners in particular are being bullied for their prescriptions and into claiming substance dependence. The relative ease with which these drugs can be diverted has also played its part in the increase if incidents of bullying and fights, particularly on the IDTS wing.'
Governor Kevin Reilly said there had been improvements since June this year, including an end to prisoners queuing for medication, improved cleanliness, boosted staff numbers and an IDTS system which was now 'safe'.
'Over this reporting year, healthcare provision has been a recurring theme and influencing NHS Norfolk and their chosen provider Serco to improve the situation has proven very challenging,' he said.
'This IMB report summarises the consequences for prisoners of the poor delivery of healthcare, but I am pleased to report that significant change has occurred and improvement in outcomes for prisoners are evident.
'While these changes are welcomed, the fundamental changes since June have been made to the structure of the contract held by SERCO. Since June this year, SERCO has changed its approach and now directly manage the clinical staffing team and sub-contract less provision.
'I have been pushing for this to happen since the beginning of the contract, and now it is, we are seeing the benefits.'
The board has also suggested the prison uses local food suppliers to save money.