Short-term female prisoners denied methadone, finds report

Short-term women prisoners are denied heroin substitute. Picture: Jon Savage
Short-term women prisoners are denied heroin substitute. Picture: Jon Savage
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Heroin addicts in Scotland’s only women’s prison are being denied access to methadone unless they are jailed for more than six months, it has emerged.

David Strang, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, said only those serving longer sentences at Cornton Vale were being considered for Opioid Replacement Therapy (ORT). He called for a review as a “matter of urgency”.

Mr Strang also warned that the number of women in custody will need to be “significantly reduced” ahead of Scottish Government plans to close the prison.

Work began last year to move inmates from Cornton Vale near Stirling to Polmont, near Falkirk, ahead of the closure.

A new facility for 80 offenders will be built at the site in 2018 alongside five smaller units across the country.

In a report published today, Mr Strang said NHS Forth ­Valley guidelines meant the commencement of ORT took longer in Cornton Vale than in the community, where in some cases patients can begin treatment within 24 hours.

He said: “A convicted woman had to receive a sentence for six months to be considered for commencement of ORT therapy. NHS Forth ­Valley stated this was to allow enough time for titration, stabilisation, and pre-prescription work to be undertaken prior to discharge into the community. We would hope that this situation would be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”

NHS Forth Valley said it had recently reviewed its policy relating to ORT.

In a statement, it said: “Women requiring such therapy within the remand population will be ­individually assessed and started on ORT, where ­clinically safe. This is in line with practice in the community.”