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Prison’s healthcare has alarming problems’

PUBLISHED: 11:27 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:37 25 August 2010

A CATEGORY A prison in which several inmates have died, has been found to have alarming problems with its healthcare provision and staff training. Belmarsh prison, which currently houses approximately 884 prisoners, is awaiting four inquests for men w

A CATEGORY A prison in which several inmates have died, has been found to have 'alarming' problems with its healthcare provision and staff training.

Belmarsh prison, which currently houses approximately 884 prisoners, is awaiting four inquests for men who died in their care.

The prison's Independent Monitoring Board's annual report slammed prison staff for not having learnt the lessons of a death from positional asphyxia following a restraint, 10 years ago.

This comes after the jury at last year's inquest for prisoner Godfrey Moyo, 25, who died in 2005, recorded a scathing narrative verdict which apportioned blame to the both nurses and prison officers.

Epileptic Moyo, who was on remand, died after being restrained face-down on the floor by prison officers for approximately 20minutes following a fit in his cell. The report said the Prison Service as a whole, and Belmarsh in particular, are slow learning the lessons from death in custody. It read: "The alarming point from the board's perspective is that it is only now, after a critical inquest finding, that training and other procedures are being put in hand to prevent a similar incident occurring.

"These measures include training of nurses in procedures for treating patients subject to seizures."

The board members said nurses need to understand control and restraint techniques (C&R) to enable them to respond appropriately to unexpected medical situations arising from being restrained.

It continues: "C&R techniques may need to be reviewed and this has been recognised by the governor using his initiative locally. This is to his credit but does not answer why such measures have not been implemented nationally before now.

"There is an ongoing concern that some prisoners with complex health requirements can not be treated adequately in Belmarsh."

The board deemed healthcare at the prison as 'unsatisfactory' and claimed a large part of the problem was rooted in the "complex interaction" between the PCT management and staff with healthcare workers at Belmarsh.

Problems included poor record keeping and in particular on the illegibility of many handwritten entries.

Last year the practice responsible for providing GPs at the prison terminated its contract, leaving prisoners with a locum service, which is also expected to cover two new privately-run prisons, due to open adjacent to Belmarsh in 2012.

The board members said that Belmarsh is a well managed prison with a generally dedicated workforce and a highly competent management team.

It also found that there have been positive developments in healthcare in recent months. They said: "There is generally increasing clarity over the relative roles of prison staff and PCT-employed nurses.

"We now hear comments from prison staff that they are welcome at patient review meetings and that their contribution as to care of patients is listened to. This is an improvement over last year and has been brought about by the persistence of the clinical lead nursing officer.


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