Police custody health care among worst, say inspectors

The Oxford Times: Assitant Chief Constable Richard Bennett Assitant Chief Constable Richard Bennett

HEALTH care in Thames Valley Police custody is said to be among the worst inspectors have seen.

The unannounced inspection of Thames Valley Police’s custody suites in September has raised concerns about mental health care and medicine supply.

The inspection, part of a national programme by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, covered nine suites in the region including Oxford, Abingdon and Banbury.

Inspectors said people held in police custody in Thames Valley were generally well cared for.

Staffing was adequate, the custody suites clean, and prisoners were treated with decency.

Inspectors also said the use of force by officers was proportionate and lawful and all detainees were told about their right to legal advice.

But supply, storage and prescribing of medicines was highlighted as a concern, and mental health services were said to be not well developed.

The report also noted some prisoners were spending too long in custody and some cells had ligature points, making suicides possible.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick and HM Inspector of Constabulary Dru Sharpling said in a joint statement: “Overall, the care of detainees in the Thames Valley force was good, the professional attitude of custody staff and the positive culture towards detainee care was some of the best we have seen.

“However, health services provision was some of the worst we have seen.

“Thames Valley Police force had not opted to be at the forefront of NHS commissioning of health services, and outcomes for detainees were potentially suffering as a result.”

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Bennett said: “This inspection report recognises the strengths of Thames Valley Police in the way that we care for detainees and we have already started work to address the recommendations for improvement.”

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