First Minister questions policy of sending people with mental health problems to prison

First Minister Rhodri Morgan has challenged “the wisdom of a sentencing policy that involves many with severe mental health problems being sent to prison when what they may need is mental health treatment outside.”

Mr Morgan’s view came during a debate on health services in prisons which, in addition to examining the broad issue of sentencing policy, also focussed on child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The debate, during First Minister’s Questions, began with a query from Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Spokesperson Peter Black AM.

Mr Black quoted a magazine article by Bridgend MP Madeline Moon in which she stated that an in-reach community adolescent mental health service is not available in Parc prison, Bridgend and, as a consequence, vulnerable children in her constituency “are being denied a service they have a right to receive, one that is provided to children in England.”

Quizzed by Mr Black on Ms Moon’s assessment the First Minister agreed that there is a need to resolve the continuing deficit in CAHMS provision at tiers 2, 3 and 4 HMP Parc.

Mr Morgan also informed Mr Black that although a case was made about the CAMHS deficit in Bridgend, and was submitted to the Assembly in December: “We have not yet determined that in conjunction with the Prison Health Partnership Board for Bridgend.”

The First Minister was then asked by Jonathan Morgan AM to comment on three reports, all published during February, which highlighted a failure on the part of health services to provide adequate healthcare for prisoners and young people across the UK.

Mr Morgan asked the First Minister to give an assurance that health boards in Wales will do a better job than their counterparts in England.

Responding, the First Minister said: “Before prison healthcare was taken out of the hands of the prison service-and I am thinking of old public sector prisons such as Cardiff and Swansea, and not new private prisons such as HMP Parc-it was an appalling Cinderella service. The improvement has been massive since then.

“There are other much wider social issues that we must address, too. If there are mental health problems that afflict prisoners, you must consider the wisdom of the sentencing policy that involves many with severe mental health problems being sent to prison in the first place, when what they may need is mental health treatment outside of prison.

“I cannot answer that question, but we must accept that sentencing so many people with mental health problems to prison in the first place is a fundamental issue.”

Swedish study claims schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may be two versions of the same mental illness

Scientists behind a 31 year study of nine million people in Sweden have claimed that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may partly share the same genetic cause.

The study, by researchers at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, involved two million Swedish families and covered the period from 1973 to 2004.

Writing in the medical journal The Lancet the study’s authors Dr Paul Lichtenstein and Dr Christina Hultman wrote: “We showed evidence that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder partly share a common genetic cause. These results challenge the current dichotomy between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and are consistent with a reappraisal of these disorders as distinct diagnostic entities.”

Understanding the links between these illnesses could, Swedish researchers hope, improve treatments and the development of new drugs.

To read more about the study please visit the Karolinska Institute website: