Advising with empathy and experience

Prison healthcare concerns.

Prisoners in Liverpool have died due to an “impoverished” healthcare system that saw three inmates take their own lives within two months, according to reports.

A leaked inspectors’ report, made following an unannounced inspection, reveals HMP Liverpool offered a “lack of support” for inmates with mental health needs. Whistleblowers corroborated this, saying inmates had died as a result of poor care.

In the report published by the BBC, inspectors state that conditions at the jail, which holds 1,100 male prisoners, are the worst they had seen.

Healthcare staff at HMP Liverpool acted as whistleblowers to highlight concerns about the treatment of some prisoners at the jail.

They say that their decision to speak out came from a sense that senior management at the trust were not listening to concerns and hiding failings from regulators.

A draft copy of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report said that, while there had been some improvements, "there is a lack of support for people with mental health needs, and in-patients have an impoverished regime. There have been failures of leadership and management at all levels."

Within days of the inspection, the BBC said it was told about the suicide of a patient in the healthcare unit. A fortnight later, staff reported a second inmate’s suicide.

The BBC said it received an email from staff saying: "He did not have his secondary screening at the prison, a national requirement. The prison at the moment is so risky."

Reports of a third death came a month later and the BBC says it was told that on the day the man died he had been waiting "nearly 17 hours" to see a prison GP.

Another inmate was left with life-changing injuries after staff failed to notice for 12 hours that he had broken his neck even though a medic had checked him.

Whistleblowers also told the BBC about regular problems with medication. Sometimes potentially life-saving drugs, such as warfarin and insulin, were not available despite being prescribed to prisoners. In other cases, mistakes led to inmates getting double doses of certain drugs.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which has provided healthcare services at the prison for two years, said it inherited some very significant challenges from the previous provider.

The trust said that, while improvements had been made, the scale of the changes needed and the challenging environment within prisons had limited its ability to improve services as it wished.

Labour MP for West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper, who has been campaigning for improvements at the prison for years, said: "We expect those prisoners to obey our rules outside prison, yet inside prison, the authorities abandon all rules and regulations and treat prisoners in this way and leave them suffering. I cannot accept that that's right."

The inspectors’ findings said many prisoners were living in "squalid" conditions.

The report said: "Many cells have broken windows with dangerous jagged glass, broken observation panels, damp, leaks and broken or blocked toilets. There is a significant problem with cockroaches and rats throughout the prison."

The problems are understood to have contributed to the removal of the governor last month and to some urgent repairs being carried out on one wing.