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Draft guidelines on helping prisoners with mental health problems

NICE has started consultation on guidelines to improve the management of mental health problems among adults in the criminal justice system.
prison

All staff working within the criminal justice system should receive training to recognise and respond to mental health problems, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

NICE has launched a consultation into draft guidance, expected to be published in March 2017, that seeks to improve the assessment, treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults in the criminal justice system.

The organisation has reported 199 suicides in prisons in England and Wales between 2012-14. More than 70% of these cases involved a person who had been identified as having a mental health problem.

Mental health issues rising

The guideline will apply to anyone who

All staff working within the criminal justice system should receive training to recognise and respond to mental health problems, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


One recommendation for the draft guideline is the immediate referral to the prison’s
mental health in-reach team of any prisoner deemed to be at risk of a mental health problem. Picture: IStock

NICE has launched a consultation into draft guidance, expected to be published in March 2017, that seeks to improve the assessment, treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults in the criminal justice system.

The organisation has reported 199 suicides in prisons in England and Wales between 2012-14. More than 70% of these cases involved a person who had been identified as having a mental health problem.

Mental health issues rising

The guideline will apply to anyone who comes into contact with the English criminal justice system, including time spent serving a community or prison sentence, and any probationary periods.

At the moment, the NHS is not responsible for healthcare provision (including mental healthcare) for people in police and court custody.

Responding to the draft guidelines, RCN professional lead for mental health nursing Ian Hulatt said: ‘It is clear from the rising number of mental health problems in the criminal justice system that these conditions are not being managed effectively. 

One line of care 

‘Mental health is a unique area of healthcare and it’s critical that all staff can access specific training to ensure those with mental health problems receive the care they need.

‘These problems aren’t left behind in prison; criminal justice services need to work in collaboration with the NHS to make sure no one falls through the cracks. Patients need one line of care that transcends their contact with the criminal justice system.’

Mr Hulatt said nursing staff were well placed to drive these improvements, but said investment into more nurses would be needed.

The consultation on the draft guidance closes on 18 November:

Recommendations in the draft guideline include:

  • Before allocation to a cell, the immediate referral to the prison’s mental health in-reach team of all those individuals entering prison who are deemed to be at risk of a mental health problem. 
  • Improving the management of urgent mental health problems presenting in the community by encouraging criminal justice services and healthcare services to coordinate their work.
  • Establishing therapeutic community programmes within the prison, to provide treatment for 12-18 months, on a twice weekly or daily basis.
  • The regular training of all criminal justice staff on the prevalence of mental health problems within their working environment, in order to help them recognise changes in behaviour and take into account that this may indicate a problem.

 


Further information

Mental health of adults in contact with the criminal justice system

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