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Early releases no help for prison healthcare

The early release of more than a thousand "low category" prisoners has failed to solve the overcrowding crisis that is putting a strain on prisoner healthcare.

A month after the Ministry of Justice introduced emergency measures to alleviate prison congestion, the British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed behind bar healthcare is still suffering.

The BMA dossier "Crisis in the Cells" says prisoners with serious health and drug dependency problems are often overlooked due to poor continuity in care and disastrous patient record keeping.

In some areas, waiting times for new prisoners to be assessed by healthcare staff has more than trebled.

The BMA also reports of staff being unable to visit prisoners with mental health problems because of delays in releasing patient details.

Dr Redmond Walsh, a prison doctor working in London said: "The early release programme is supposed to give the penal system a short respite after months of unrelenting pressure.

"However, prison healthcare continues to be strained to breaking point in many areas."

Chairman of the BMA's Civil and Public Services Committee Dr Clare Jenkins added: "The government must provide a set of concrete and long-term proposals that address the specific problems facing prison healthcare.

"Temporary fixes will not address the current crisis."

Related story: Prison healthcare in "overcrowding" crisis