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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness



Standards for Prison Mental Health Services

The standards act as a framework by which to assess the quality of prison mental health services via a process of self and peer review. The first edition of the standards was published in June 2015 following an extensive process of consultation with stakeholder groups, including prison mental health staff, patients and commissioners. Information was collated from a wide range of sources and a review of key literature and documents was undertaken.


The second edition of the standards was produced in order to acknowledge feedback collated from member services that participated in the pilot year of the Quality Network for Prison Mental Health Services, and also to account for new developments within the field of prison mental health.


Following the first full year of the Network following the pilot year, a third edition was published to recognise feedback from a greater membership base. NICE guidance published in 2016 on the physical health of people in prison and further guidelines published in 2017 on the mental health of people in the criminal justice system was also considered during this revision.  


The specialist standards also incorporate the CCQI standards for community-based mental health services (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2015). All core standards have been marked adjacent to the standard number in brackets, followed by the letter ‘C’ and the core standard number as it appears in the CCQI standards for community-based mental health services publication [e.g. (C3.4)].


All criteria are rated as Type 1, 2 or 3

Type 1: Essential standards. Failure to meet these would result in a significant threat to patient safety, rights or dignity and/or would breach the law. These standards also include the fundamentals of care, including the provision of evidence based care and treatment.


Type 2: Expected standards that all services should meet.

Type 3: Desirable standards that high performing services should meet.

 Standards for 24 Hour Mental Healthcare in Prisons


These standards provide a framework for specialised quality improvement for prison mental health services with inpatient provisions or enhanced care facilities. They have been developed following an extensive period of consultation with key stakeholders and a thorough examination of the key literature.


These standards will be used by member services of the Quality Network as an optional addition to the existing set of standards for prison mental health services that form the basis of self and peer-reviews.

Annual Reports


The annual reports summarise the findings from the review visits that are conducted over each year period. They outline the current climate within prison mental health nationally, identifying best practice as well as the key areas of challenge experienced by participating services.


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