Prisoners with serious mental health problems wait up to six months to be transferred to the hospital for treatment, according to the Guardian's investigation.
Government guidelines in England and Wales predict that prisoners who are severely mentally ill should be transferred to the hospital within 14 days of the first medical recommendation. But according to the data analysis of the Ministry of Justice hundreds prisoners annually remains waiting for appropriate treatment.
The data shows that in some cases prisoners with mental health problems wait for six months from the officials receiving the request to transfer the prisoner to the final admission of the prisoner to the hospital.
The analysis of suicide deaths in prisons also reveals that at least six prisoners have killed themselves since 2014, when they are being considered or are waiting to be transferred to the hospital.
In one report on the death of a prisoner, Nigel Newcomen, a prison guard, noted that even if the prisoner was found fit to be transferred to hospital, the prisoner "waited more than seven weeks when he died." In a report on the suicide of another prisoner, Newcomen wrote that "at the moment of death, he was waiting for a transfer to a safe hospital, but unfortunately there was no room for a bed before he died."
Out of six cases, two prisoners waited more than two weeks to be transferred to the hospital. In one case, the prison psychiatrist asked for an assessment to determine if the prisoner should move to a safe hospital, but the specialist commissioners did not receive a preliminary referral to the mental health team manager to send him a few weeks later. The prisoner was still waiting for the assessment when he died.
In 2011, the Government introduced guidelines in England and Wales, according to which the second medical opinion and all administrative tasks should be completed within 14 days.
However, in England and Wales, in 2016-2017, 66% of transfers from prison to hospital lasted more than 14 days, and 7.1% lasted 140 days or longer.
Data provided by the Ministry of Justice, in response to parliamentary question asked by MP Barbara Keeley, revealed that one important stage of the process requires an average of two weeks, from the moment the Ministry receives the request for transfer to the actual date of admission to the hospital.
The Ministry of Justice has noticed that sometimes it receives incomplete applications, so part of the time between reception and reception will be spent waiting for relevant information.
The total number of transfers to the hospital has decreased by 12% in four years. In 2014, there were 1061 transfers from prison to hospital, but fell to 936 in 2017.
Keeley, Minister of Mental Health at Labor, said: "This data revealed a hidden scandal related to poor access to mental health treatment in prisons in England, a scandal that tragically took the lives of prisoners who were desperately seeking help in mental illness.
"The Labor Party calls for Tory Ministers to examine urgently the scale of the mental health crisis and the barriers facing those who are trying to access services in prison.
Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Prison is not a place for people who are severely mentally ill. These shocking numbers graphically show the damage done to the most vulnerable patients, while two overloaded services argue over who should take care of them.
"The government must now take action to completely fulfill its obligations to individuals."
Abdi Gure, organizer of the community for Mind, who works on transferring mentally ill BAME prisoners to the hospital, said that there are serious institutional shortcomings.
"There is a failure at every step," he said. "We have cases in which black people who have been in the mental health system for many years, feel bad and commit a crime, the police take them away, treat them like real criminals, take them to the police station and accuse them. "
Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, said: "The prolonged delay in moving people from prison to mental health services when they are considered to be in crisis is regrettable and costs a life. Prisons are harmful, dangerous and dangerous environments that worsen suffering and mental illness. "
The government spokesman said: "We take the prisoners 'mental health very seriously, which is why we have increased the support available to vulnerable criminals – especially during the first 24 hours in detention – and have invested more in the training of prisoners' psychological awareness.
"However, we realize that more can be done and continue working with NHS England, among other things to improve the mental health of criminals at all points of the criminal justice system."
In the UK, you can contact the Samaritans at 116 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14. Other international suicide hotlines can be found at www.befrienders.org.