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Health staff at HMP YOI Grampian ‘tired, over-stretched and stressed’

HMP and YOI Grampian in Peterhead. Picture by Kami Thomson
HMP and YOI Grampian in Peterhead. Picture by Kami Thomson

Healthcare staff at HMP YOI Grampian are “tired, overstretched and stressed” due to problems with recruitment and staff absences, according to a new report.

The north-east prison was, however, praised for “performing strongly” in its response to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Based on a liaison visit to the facility by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) in November last year, the report highlights the impact of the virus and lockdown on staff and prisoners.

It says 116 male prisoners and 22 female had been placed in isolation between March and October in line with prison coronavirus guidance, and out of 29 prisoners tested, only one had been positive on admission.

It adds that the prison, located in Peterhead, deserves “credit for their success in managing” Covid risks.

However, attention was drawn to the needs of the “small core” of NHS staff who provide “stability” at the understaffed HMP YOI Grampian, with the report calling it a “key concern”.

HMIPS said: “As a priority there is an urgent need to address the nursing and pharmacy staffing concerns and secure a controlled drugs licence.”

‘No justice for children’: Imprisonment of vulnerable Aberdeen girl highlights plight of young prisoners as majority banged up are on remand

Calls to improve healthcare

The report says the nursing team are having to deliver a pharmacy service, due to the lack of a pharmacy team at the facility – an issue the Inspectorate was told the prison was preparing to address, during a previous visit in October 2019.

It states they were “disappointed to find that little progress had been made”.

Mental health of prisoners was also highlighted as a concern, with the Inspectorate offering a “challenge” to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) “to consider what more may be possible given the importance of purposeful activity in supporting good mental health for those who otherwise face too many hours locked in their own cells”.

They also called on the prison to secure a controlled drugs licence “at the earliest available opportunity”.

In a “very encouraging” development, though, HMIPS noted that the prison had a “calmer, controlled atmosphere” compared to their last full inspection, which they said was a result of the progress made in “securing a solid SPS staffing base”.

Still no plans to bring back young offenders

The Young Offenders Institute at the Peterhead facility has not held anyone for almost seven years.

In the aftermath of a 15-hour YOI riot that took place mere months after the ‘superjail’ was opened in 2014, all those incarcerated there were transferred to YOI Polmont.

Today, the Scottish Prison Service has confirmed that there are still no plans to move any young offenders back up north.

While the coronavirus situation was cited as a reason for this, the SPS also said the recent “significant reduction” in the number of young offenders in Scotland has played a role.

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