Report says expert care for prisoners with serious mental illness could save £1bn per year

A report published today has claimed that if prisoners with a serious mental illness in England and Wales received proper psychiatric care the collective cost saving per year would be £1bn.

The report, published by analysts Laing & Buisson, says that while treating individual prisoners in secure hospitals could help save £626,000 in re-offending costs (such as police time, emotional harm caused to victims, legal fees and bills for NHS care) not enough prisoners are receiving the help they require.

The report, which was compiled from previously published data, also estimates that although 1.5% of the 80,000-plus prison population in England and Wales has, at any one time, conditions as severe as schizophrenia, less than half receive hospital treatment. If these prisoners received proper psychiatric care, the study, (“Waiting on the Wings: A review of the costs and benefits of secure psychiatric hospital care for people in the criminal justice system with severe mental health problems”) claims the collective cost saving (for 2008) would have added up to £1bn.

The report’s author Dr Judy Renshaw said: “Although the large majority of prisoners with mental illnesses can be treated effectively within prisons, the criminal justice system needs to recognise that there is a small minority with severe mental illness who remain in prison to the detriment of their own mental health.”

Commenting on Laing and Buisson’s findings, Penny Cram, Criminal Justice Lead Officer of the Welsh mental health charity, Hafal, said: “Nobody with a serious mental illness should be in a police or prison cell. If someone has those symptoms there should be timely and effective mechanisms to move them out of prison into mental health services.

“Hafal is currently working with the Welsh Assembly Government as part of its strategic review of mental health services. We are, along with partner agencies, working towards appropriate transfer times between prison and secure mental health care for those who are experiencing psychosis or serious mental illness in prison.”

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