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Prisoners subject to a 'postcode lottery' in order to receive urgent mental health assistance

30 April 2010

Research by the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and South London and Maudsley (SLaM) has found that prisoners are subject to a postcode lottery mental health care when referred to hospital.

The study took place throughout 2006 with a catchment of 80 prisoners who were identified with severe mental illness. The results recorded delays of up to three months, contrary to the National Service Framework, the regulatory service which sets the national standard for addressing adults with mental health needs.

A key requirement outlined in the National Service Framework, is the necessity for timely access for all adults to a hospital bed (there is currently an expectation of two weeks).

The delay occurs after a prisoner receives an initial diagnosis within the prison service. From here, it is completely up to the local NHS service as to when the prisoner receives attention. Prisoners have to rely on transfer to their borough of origin, which is determined by their home address, as opposed to the prison system.

Dr Simon Wilson from the Institute of Psychiatry said: 'Although prisoners with mental illness are entitled to the same standard and quality of health care as everyone else, it is well established that it takes more than 3 months to urgently transfer severely mentally ill prisoners to hospital for treatment. This paper is the first to explore the differences in such transfer by the prisoners' address - it appears a postcode lottery may be operating.'

'Postcode lottery? Hospital transfers from one London prison and responsible catchment area' was published in the April issue of The Psychiatrist to read the paper in full, please follow the link:

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