Dental care at Teesside prison slammed as ‘unacceptable’ in annual report

Inspectors have told a Teesside prison to improve after failings in dental care. In the annual report of Holme House, inspectors at the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) said the waiting time to see a dentist has been ‘unacceptable’ with only emergencies, in the main, getting attention.

HMP Holme House is a category C training and resettlement prison, holding convicted adult male prisoners (aged 21 and over), and a small number of young adult men (aged 18 to 21). It is part of the Tees and Wear Prison Group, together with HMP Durham, HMP Kirklevington Grange and HMP/YOIDeerbolt. The majority of the prisoners are from the region, with a small number from further afield.

In the new report, inspectors call for healthcare improvements to be made, the report states: “It is imperative that dental services be improved.” It outlines how in 2019, inspectors told the prison it provided a poor dental service with waiting lists for a consultation being up to 21 weeks, an eight-week wait for ongoing treatment and oral health education and nine weeks for dental therapy.

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But almost two years of Covid-19 pandemic have left this area of care for prisoners “significantly worse”, according to the report. Inspectors said the situation at the Stockton prison is not comparable with services in the community or the neighbouring prison, HMP Kirklevington Grange, or a similar prison, HMP Northumberland.

In a message to the prison service, the inspectors said: “We are concerned that the prison service has not acted expediently in connection with the poor dental services at the prison.”

However inspectors praised the prison after they found a reduction in violence starting in September 2020 and said in general healthcare services have improved during the year with the community (house block-based) model being established. Inspectors said waiting lists to consult a GP were reduced, as some consultations were held by telephone and house block-based nurses carried out triage.

It was also noted that despite staff absences and the constraints imposed by Covid-19 the team has been resourceful in enabling much of their work to continue. Inspectors congratulated the team for their diligence and commitment.

In a message to the minister, inspectors said: “We are pleased with improvements to the prison over the year. There is still funding needed to ensure a reasonable level of decency within cells. We would however ask the Minister to take action in connection with dental services at HMP Holme House.”

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