Shortage of healthcare staff at Scottish prison having ‘detrimental impact’, report finds

Staff shortages among healthcare workers at a Scottish prison are having a “detrimental impact” across the establishment, according to an inspection report.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland published the inspection report for HMP Shotts on Wednesday showing the Lanarkshire prison faced staff shortages which had an impact on healthcare delivery, access to employment, staff training, staff and prisoner engagement, and evening activities.

Prior to the inspection, significant incidents also affected the confidence of the prison, but inspectors say the recently introduced practice of photocopying mail has seen a “welcome reduction” in drug related incidents.

Significant and sustained pressure on healthcare staff had a detrimental impact on patient care, resulting in a grading of “poor” for NHS Lanarkshire, who provide healthcare within the prison.

There is no GP cover for the prison between 1.30 and 6.00pm.

Inspectors said this was not a reflection on the staff which the report states make “considerable efforts” to support the inmates’ healthcare needs.

They also had concerns long-term prisoners were released back into the community from the prison without any formal opportunity to develop key life skills as part of the preparation for release during their sentence.

The Scottish Prison Service has also been urged to secure permanent senior management posts as these have been occupied on a temporary promotion basis for over two years.

HMP Shotts is the first public sector prison in Scotland to install a digital kiosk system for prisoners to order meals and other requests.

Inspectors also saw positive relationships between prisoners and staff at the National Integration Centre within the prison, which holds around 60 male offenders in the initial stages of a long or life sentence and prepares them to move into mainstream prisons.

The prison was also commended for increasing the offending behaviour programme delivery during Covid-19 and for education and chaplaincy activities to resume.

Around 65 recommendations were made for the prison in total, but the Scottish Prison Service and the NHS have been urged to focus on 13 key recommendations including improving medical cover, pharmacy provision and providing support for those with long term health conditions.

SPS should focus on actions to reduce violence, promoting equality and diversity, anti-bullying strategies and improving access to opportunities to progress.

An SPS spokesperson said: “This report highlights a number of areas of good practice, including the significant reduction in drug-taking incidents, following the introduction of photocopying of prisoners’ mail.

“It has also highlighted a number of recommendations for improvement, which we will take away, and we are already working with NHS partners, who have responsibility for healthcare, to address some of the concerns raised.”

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