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Damning report finds ‘serious gaps’ in care at asylum-seekers’ centre

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Prison inspectors have raised serious concerns at the lack of nursing care provided to asylum seekers at a notorious detention centre.

The standard of healthcare given to detainees at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedford, which is run by Serco Healthcare, has ‘serious gaps in provision’ and the health and well-being of children held at the centre is of ‘great concern’, according to a report by prisons inspector Anne Owers.

The lack of specialist health services for young people were criticised. The centre had no registered sick children’s nurse – though the post was being advertised, mental health services for children were not easily accessible and there was no children’s counsellor.

There were seven vacancies at the health services unit out of a total of 15 full-time equivalent posts. These vacancies were being covered by two bank nurses.

Annie Norman, RCN adviser on prisons, told NT that the report made for ‘sad and disappointing’ reading.

‘Although there will be some good healthcare staff and nurses, morale must be low,’ she said. ‘This is worse than “could do better” – there are serious gaps in provision.’

The Yarl’s Wood centre came to public attention in 2002 when detainees rioted and burned down part of the building.

Speaking on behalf of Serco Healthcare, a spokesperson for the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for asylum seekers, said it would soon be adopting a legal duty to promote children’s welfare.

Meanwhile, the consultation on proposals for giant Titan jails closed last week.

Peter Atkinson, RCN mental health adviser, said existing prisons were already full of people with undiagnosed mental health problems.

‘This is an issue that would increase as the size of the prisons increases,’ he said. ‘The bigger they are, the more chance there
is of people slipping through the net.’

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