19:13, October 15 72 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-15 19:13:06
Prisoners age more quickly than general population, inspectors say

Prisoners age more quickly than the general population, inspectors have said, as they say jails in England and Wales are ill-equipped to deal with a growing population of older inmates.

A report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said prisoners experience a faster ageing process due to a wide range of factors during the prison sentence and prior to detention.

“Prison itself is considered to be an environment which can give rise to the development of physical and mental impairments,” the report said. “In addition, prisoners’ mental and physical health are widely recognised as poorer than the wider population.”

The finding comes as the inspectorates warn that the Prison Service and local authorities are failing to plan for the future needs of a growing population of elderly, ill and frail prisoners.

As of December 2017, the number of people in prison aged 50 and over was 13,522, representing 16% of the total adult prison population. Projections indicate that the number of people aged 50 and over held in custodial settings is likely to increase, the report said.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) study cited by the inspectorates, medically and socially vulnerable adults – such as homeless or impoverished people, refugees and prisoners – experience accelerated ageing.

Older prisoners often fall into several categories of the medically vulnerable, owing to a history of poverty, poor access to healthcare, substance use or other factors, the WHO study found.

At a national level, the inspectorates found that developments in social care in prisons are only related to current need.

Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, said: “We are not convinced that there is adequate consideration of what will be required in the very near future, such as the obvious needs that will flow from the projected growth in the older prisoner population.

“This, in our view, represents a serious and obvious defect in strategic planning.”

Prof Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice and integrated care at the CQC, said: “People in prisons can have complex and varied health and care needs, which can be exacerbated through incarceration.

“This will only become harder to address if they are not given access to good care, and if settings do not make the necessary adjustments to support prisoners with varied capacity to care for themselves.

“As the prison population ages and becomes more likely to develop new conditions while in prison, it is extremely important that services are equipped and managed in a way that offers the high-quality care that everyone has the right to.”

HMIP and CQC said the provision of social care was inconsistent across the prison estate, with some inmates struggling to wash themselves and others who have fallen and are unable to get help during the night.

The report says older jails are ill-equipped for prisoners in wheelchairs or with mobility problems.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We recognise the challenges posed by an ageing prison population and will continue working closely with partners in local and central government to make sure services are delivered more consistently across the country now and in the future.

 “Inspectors noted that there is already good work going on to adapt prisons for an older population and, since this inspection, we have updated guidance for governors on how to deal with prisoners who have social care needs.”

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