Prison’s mental health service being hampered by shortage of nursing staff

A shortage of nursing staff is hampering the delivery of a comprehensive mental health service at a Scottish prison, it has been found.

Inspectors said much has been done to improve the situation at HMP & YOI Grampian in Peterhead since its standard of health and well-being was graded poor after an inspection in November and December 2015.

They said the enduring shortage of mental health nurses was “of particular concern”, however, and suggested Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Grampian may need to consider alternative ways of delivering care in the prison.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) made a return visit to the prison on June 11 to 13 this year to assess what progress had been made since 2015.

The report said despite staffing issues there has been a striking improvement in the morale of the healthcare team since the last inspection, with staff saying they now enjoyed working in the establishment.

HMIPS said: “What was immediately evident on our return was the effort that had been made by Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and HMP & YOI Grampian to address the concerns raised in 2015.

“An increased staffing complement had been agreed following the 2015 inspection. However, the healthcare team was still operating with fewer permanent staff than deemed necessary.

“Of particular concern was the enduring shortage of mental health nurses, an issue that we understand affects the wider NHS Grampian board area.

“Given that the shortage of mental health nurses has existed for a number of years and appears to be a board-wide issue, it may be that Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Grampian needs to consider alternative delivery models for mental health services within HMP & YOI Grampian.”

The report noted the ability to deliver a comprehensive mental health service “continued to be hindered” by not having the full complement of nursing staff.

HMIPS added: “Although there is still considerable work to do, inspectors saw demonstrable evidence of how the actions taken since 2015 had had a positive impact on the service being delivered.”

Mark Simpson, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) Partnership Manager North, said: “This is a really good inspection report and I am very proud of the work that our staff have done to turn things around within the healthcare centre at HMP Grampian.

“Yes, we have issues in recruiting mental health nurses, however, as stated in the report this is a Grampian-wide problem and as a partnership we have worked closely with the Scottish Prison Service to ensure that our healthcare staff within HMPG are well supported and that the working environment is a positive one.

“We have already put in place a number of changes, such as offering flexible working and part-time work, to how we recruit in order to attract more staff and we will continue to look at every available option when recruiting healthcare staff to HMP Grampian.”

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