A north-east superjail has been urged to address a staffing crisis in a new report.
An inspection by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) of HMP and YOI Grampian, in Peterhead, identified a serious shortage of healthcare staff as a key area of concern.
The prison opened in 2014 after the merger of HMP Aberdeen and HMP Peterhead and is capable of housing more than 500 offenders.
The HMIPS report was delivered by Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Wendy Sinclair-Gieben yesterday.
As part of the inspection, various aspects of the prison were rated on a scale between good performance, the highest grading, to the lowest of unacceptable performance.
The health and well-being category for the prison was given a poor grading – the lowest scoring area for the jail.
In its findings relating to the health and well-being category, HMIPS outlined the challenges around staffing at the prison.
The report stated: “The recruitment and retention of staff continued to be a challenge for the healthcare team and is an issue that mirrors NHS Grampian as a whole.
“Many posts lay vacant, necessitating the ongoing use of bank/agency staff, and there was concern that the healthcare team was often operating at below acceptable staff levels to delivery safe care.”
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It added: “A general lack of leadership among the nursing team was identified, with less senior staff expected to make clinical decisions without support from senior colleagues.
“This should be addressed once the team leads and clinical nurse manager have completed leadership and management training.”
The report stated that in two previous inspections, in 2015 and June 2018, challenges faced by the prison’s healthcare team in maintaining the full complement of staff needed to effectively deliver services had been highlighted.
It found these issues had not been sufficiently addressed since being raised.
The report stated: “It was clear to inspectors this continued to be the case.
“It should be noted inspectors are aware that the recruitment and retention of staff is not solely an issue for prison healthcare but a challenge for NHS Grampian in general.
“Inspectors were concerned that the continued reliance on bank/agency staff to deliver essential services could lead to a dilution of the skill-mix of the permanent workforce.”
The Scottish Prison Service welcomed the report and recognition of the continued progress being made by the jail.
A statement issued by the service read: “SPS welcomes in particular the recognition of the excellent work being done to prepare people for release. We recognise the continuing challenges of the recruitment and retention of staff at Grampian.
“We have adapted our recruitment process to include online testing and application. In addition, we hosted an open day at the prison in June of this year.”
It added: “In the interim we continue to support the establishment with staff from elsewhere in the estate who are working at Grampian on detached duty.
“The challenges of providing a varied regime for a complex prison population are recognised and a regime review is being carried out.”