The prison service and local authorities are failing to plan for a rise in elderly, ill and frail inmates, according to a new report from the HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission. Many older jails are ill-equipped for prisoners in wheelchairs or with mobility problems, the
HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission also flagged up concerns about a lack of support overnight, with some inmates unable to summon assistance after falling.
The report went on to say that a “postcode lottery” has developed where prisoners can receive a poor, satisfactory or very good service based on which facility they are sent to, according to the joint review of social care provided in prisons in England and Wales, adding that the increasing prison population, coupled with longer sentences and sentences being given for historic offences, have contributed to its “reshaping
The report highlighted the absence of a comprehensive national strategy for the provision of social care in jails and said the ageing population within prisons, coupled with increasing frailty and incidence of dementia, has accelerated the need for prisons to address social care needs.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke, who previously floated the idea of secure “old people’s homes with walls”, said: “Prisons were designed to accommodate physically fit and mentally stable individuals, with prison life being arranged to address the needs of the many.
“Prisoners with social care needs – unable to fully care for themselves, needing help in getting around the prison or in participating socially – are at a significant disadvantage.”
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice and integrated care at the CQC, said: “As the prison population ages and becomes more likely to develop new conditions while in prison, it is extremely important that services are equipped and managed in a way that offers the high-quality care that everyone has the right to.”
Sally Copley, Alzheimer’s Society Director of Policy, Campaigns and Partnerships, said:
‘The report echoes what we’ve seen from our work in prisons – that they’re not fit for purpose if you have dementia.
‘The number of over 50s in prisons has already increased by 150% since 2002, and more and more will be developing dementia every year. But the healthcare staff we spoke to in three different prisons told us they don’t feel adequately trained to assess and support prisoners with dementia, and find it difficult to distinguish between the effects of alcohol and substance abuse and dementia symptoms.
‘Prison officers tell us that they very rarely come across people with dementia, but we know the reality is that there are people who enter the prison system who have undiagnosed dementia and they are not being detected.
‘While it’s fundamental that we provide quality social care to everyone in prison who needs it, we also need to get better at identifying people in prisons with dementia so they can get that support.
‘We’d advise the Ministry of Justice and NHS to consider providing dementia-specific training for staff to spot the early symptoms of dementia.’