STRUCTURE: A dedicated healthcare service to support prisoners who have a learning disability has been launched across Surrey’s four prisons.

The new learning disability prison liaison service will operate in HMPs Send and Coldingley, in Woking, and HMPs Downview and Highdown, in Sutton, to ensure that prisoners who have a learning disability are given the right support.

The service, being run by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is thought to be the first county-wide service of its kind in England and Wales within both male and female prisons.

Stephen Haynes, who has worked as a nurse in Surrey’s learning disability services for the past 17 years, is leading the new service.

He said: “General healthcare and specialist mental health services have long been established within the prison system but there are very few prison in-reach healthcare services offering specialist support to people who have a learning disability.”

Jo Young, director of operations at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “One of our first tasks is to investigate the level of support that is required so we are piloting a new assessment tool across these four prisons.

“An IQ of less than 70 is a strong indication that a person either has a learning disability or needs additional support with daily living and communication skills but our assessments will take into account a variety of factors that may affect an individual’s ability to make informed decisions.”

A steering group to oversee the new service is being chaired by Sue Davis, head of healthcare at HMP Highdown, and will include representation from Surrey and Borders Partnership and NHS Surrey Commissioning, which is funding the service long term.

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