HMIP Health Notes: HMP Pentonville, Apr 2019

This report was on an unannounced inspection of HMP Pentonville between 01–12 April 2019, and was published in August 2019.

“Pentonville epitomises the challenges confronting ageing, inner-city prisons with transient populations, many with heightened levels of need and risk.”

General Points of Interest:

Use of force had been applied 419 times in the 6 month period prior to the inspection.

At the time of this inspection, 25% of the population were receiving psychosocial support for substance misuse needs.

During this same period, the positive MDT rate was 29% for those prisoners tested.

Since the last inspection in 2017, there had been 4 self-inflicted deaths, and another from natural causes.

There had been 316 incidents of self-harm in the previous 6 months, similar to comparator prisons. Constant supervision had been used 17 times.

Over the same period, 400 prisoners had been subject to ACCT processes. 30 of all ACCT documents were opened in reception.

Healthy Prison Outcomes:

2017 2019
Safety 1 1
Respect 2 2
Purposeful Activity 2 2
Rehabilitation & Release Planning 3 2

Outcome Ratings:

Rating Outcomes for Prisoners
4 Good
3 Reasonably Good
2 Not Sufficiently Good
1 Poor

Key Points of Interest: Health, Well-Being and Social Care:

Healthcare managers provided strong leadership to a dedicated professional team who told inspectors that they felt well supported.

Staffing levels and retention had improved, with limited reliance on bank and agency staff. Staff received regular managerial and clinical supervision, and compliance with mandatory training was good. Staff were also supported in developing advanced clinical skills.

The introduction of a dedicated prison governor, custodial manager and prison officers into health care had improved communications and facilitated better access for patients. Patients no longer had to wait in health care for a long period after their appointments and waiting lists were shorter.

The DNA rate for the GP clinic had improved at 10% but remained too high for other clinics, for example dentist 31.8% and optician 35.8%. However, there were plans to deliver more treatment on wings from May 2019 to address this.

There was no overarching health promotion strategy or action plan. Health promotion literature was available in the health centre but limited elsewhere, which was a missed opportunity to encourage well-being.

Working relationships between prison and mental health staff were mature. The majority (97%) of recently appointed prison officers had received some training in mental health awareness, which was viewed by inspectors as being commendable.

There was an open MH referral system, daily well-being team meetings and prompt assessment via the Health and Wellbeing Model. Prisoners in the red zone were seen within one working day and those in the green within 5 days, which was efficient.

The impressive well-being centre continued to deliver an additional level of primary mental health care, supporting vulnerable prisoners through structured and consistent daytime therapies. All eligible prisoners could now use this service, from which 20 prisoners benefited each day.

Patients had complex emotional and mental health needs. About 220 (20%) patients at a time were on the caseload for primary mental health care and 60 (5%) for secondary mental health care. About one in nine prisoners (146) were on anti-psychotic medication which, although less than in 2017, was very high.

At the time of the inspection, 116 patients were receiving methadone or buprenorphine (opiate substitutes), with 54 appropriately on reducing doses. Prescribing was flexible and based on national clinical guidance.

At the time of the inspection, 31% of patients had their medicines in possession. Cells still lacked lockable facilities for storing medicines, but random checks of 10 cells a month had been introduced, which was a noted improvement on 2017.

As part of the survey, 30% of prisoners rated the overall quality of the health services as being either very good or quite good.

Recommendations: Health, Well-Being and Social Care:

  • The prison health care local delivery board should ensure that assertive action is taken to enable access to health care, safe storage of in-possession medicines, and a prison-wide strategy for health and well-being.
  • Governance procedures should be strengthened significantly to ensure safe and appropriate social care provision.
  • Patients requiring care in external mental health services should be transferred expeditiously.
  • Maximum and minimum temperatures should be recorded daily for refrigerators where medicines are stored and documented corrective action should be taken when temperatures fall outside the 2–8 degrees centigrade range.

Good Practice: Health, Well-Being and Social Care:

  • The dedicated team of prison staff in health care had improved efficiency and the patient experience.
  • The well-being centre supported vulnerable prisoners with a structured therapeutic regime and enabled positive outcomes for those with both primary and secondary mental health needs.
  • The enhanced support service team offered valued guidance and support.

CQC Requirement Notices Issued:

  • None


Full Report Here – HMP Pentonville

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