23 January 2006

Report critical over jail deaths

BBC


Prisoner healthcare is to transfer to Health and Personal Social Services

A report into the suicides of six prisoners has criticised the standard of mental health care in Northern Ireland jails.

Queen's University Professor Roy McClelland's report looks at the deaths of four men and two women since 2002.

It said the prisoners were determined to take their own lives and were always ultimately likely to be successful.

However, it said more could be done to help prisoners with mental health problems.

Professor McClelland also said he was concerned that previous recommendations about the Prison Service have not been implemented.

He said the emphasis should be on "much better connectivity between the health service and prison service".

"Particularly as prisoners are often among the most vulnerable in our society and their mental health needs tend to be greater that the wider community.

"That is not probably well recognised in the community at large."

JAIL SUICIDES

--Mark Fulton, died 10 June 2002 at Mourne House, Maghaberry
--Anne Kelly, died 7 September 2002 at Mourne House, Maghaberry
--Eamon McKinney, died 5 April 2003 at Lagan House, Maghaberry
--Patrick Mongan, died 19 October 2003 at Magilligan
--Duncan Brown, died 12 November 2003 at the Special Supervision Unit, Maghaberry
--Roseanne Irvine, died 3 March 2004 at Mourne House, Maghaberry

The independent review into the deaths was published along with the Prison Service's Action Plan.

Security Minister Shaun Woodward said suicide must be recognised as a major public health issue "which cannot be tackled by one agency alone".

"One of the key factors identified by McClelland and others has been a fundamental weakness in the deployment, management and support of staff delivering health services and a lack of central health co-ordination in terms of delivering a modern health service within NI prisons.

"For this reason, supported by the service's own Review of Health Care Services, I announced my approval in 2005 for the lead responsibility for prisoner healthcare to transfer from the Prison Service to the Health and Personal Social Services (HPSS).

"Arrangements are being made for this transfer to take place by 1 April 2007."

NI Prison Service director general Robin Masefield said he had been concerned at the apparent number of non natural deaths and if there were gaps in its healthcare services.

He added: "The report does highlight failures in our procedures and processes which we as a service are addressing.

"We have produced an action plan accepting the Review Team's 30 recommendations and setting out what we are going to do and when.

Chief Medical Officer Etta Campbell said the report would pave the way to significant improvements in the health care of prisoners.

"Suicide is an important issue which requires attention not only in our prisons but also in the wider community," she said.

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