Prisoners were waiting for more than two months for routine GP appointments at one jail in the North East. Prison inspectors reported long delays at the HMP Durham, a category B men’s prison, for appointments with 264 prisoners on the waiting list at the time of the inspection. Inspectors also revealed ‘a worrying’ proportion of prisoners (43%) left prison without suitable accommodation to go to.
Inspectors noted levels of violence had fallen by ‘almost two-thirds’ since the previous inspection. Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, paid credit to the governor and leadership team for ‘a more than 60% fall in violence since our last inspection. But he added: ‘The quality of health care in every area, from GP appointments to mental health provision, was suffering from some serious staff shortages. Prisoners frequently complained to inspectors about the difficulties in getting treatment or medication.’
Inspectors underlined the ‘potentially illegitimate use of force and poor practice in some cases, despite an overall decline in physical intervention’. Prisoners spent too long locked in their cells, particularly if they had just arrived at the prison – ‘some could only spend half an hour in the open air every day and 45 minutes undertaking domestic tasks’.