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Influential group of MPs launches inquiry into prison healthcare including staff wellbeing

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An influential committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of prison healthcare services in meeting the needs of inmates, including those with long-term conditions.

The investigation by the Commons health and social care committee comes amid ongoing concern about a range of issues, such as high rates of self-harm and suicide, the care of older prisoners, and the recruitment and training of the prison healthcare workforce.

Last year, the Royal College of Nursing warned that the safety of nurses working in prisons was being put at risk because prisons had become “dangerous, overcrowded warehouses”. Attacks on prison staff had increased and the number of nurses willing to work in prisons had plummeted as a result.

Meanwhile, a 2017 report by the Centre for Mental Health and Howard League for Penal Reform raised concerns about the adequacy of training for mental health nurses working in prisons, especially when it came to working with prisoners at risk of suicide and providing acute care.

The inquiry will look at the way prisons and prison healthcare services look after the physical, mental and social care needs of prisoners.

It will include examining how well the system caters for those with long-term conditions, disabilities and social care needs like dementia, as well as dealing with urgent and emergency health issues.

Other key areas for investigation include the impact of the prison environment on the physical, mental and social wellbeing of prisoners and prison staff, including levels of violence and drug use.

The inquiry will also look at the commissioning and regulation of prison healthcare services.

The committee will first gather written evidence with submissions due in by 21 May. It expects to start hearing evidence in person in June.

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