A helping hand

I read with interest your coverage on the proposals that NHS Lothian is developing in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) in respect of the ­rehabilitation of offenders (your report, 5 February).

The employability project we have agreed with the SPS is aimed at supporting people who have offended to prepare for re-entering the world of work, and to help people not to return to criminal lifestyle, to improve their health and to make a positive contribution to society.

The programme will see ten people in placements out of a staff of more than 26,000. They will be part-time and over a fixed period in non-­clinical roles. The placements are ­designed to help build a regular work ethic and to improve employability prospects in preparation from release from prison.

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People will be selected by the SPS following a rigorous risk assessment. The programme will only be available to low-supervision, short-term prisoners. Formal training for managers has been delivered. Service mentors and supervisors will be specifically responsible for directly ­supervising the placement.

I do appreciate that patients and staff will want to be reassured about this programme. In NHS Lothian we have decades of experience of considering applicants for employment from people with criminal convictions. Each case is risk assessed before a decision is made.

All of the arrangements in this programme have been designed in partnership with the trade unions/professional organisations and the SPS. We will fully evaluate the pilot before taking any decision about the ­future of the initiative.

This project has been planned over the past year. We have considerable experience in this area and will be meticulous in our risk assessments.

Fundamentally this is about giving people a chance to turn their lives around. I am not naïve enough to believe that all the people on placement will grasp this opportunity all of the time, however, we are committed to helping all people in society to lead healthy, fulfilling lives and doing that in a way that is thoughtful, careful and proportionate.

I hope this letter goes some way to reassure your readers of the aim of the programme and the safeguards that will be in place. I would be happy to share the outcome of the evaluation of the pilot with you. Patient safety will always be our top ­priority.

Alan M Boyter

Director of 
human resources and 
organisational development

NHS Lothian