We were contacted by Steve via our secure prison NHS Complaints Advocacy helpline. Steve was in a category ‘b’ prison and wanted our help to make a complaint about his healthcare treatment. Steve suffered from schizophrenia and required regular medication to control his condition. It was important to Steve that the medication was administered at the same time every day, or he would often feel extremely unwell to the extent that he was likely to self-harm.

The advocate supporting Steve had developed a positive working relationship with the prison and had arranged to provide monthly drop-ins in conjunction with the local PALS team. We therefore arranged for Steve to come along to the next drop-in.

When we met Steve he was very shaky and anxious. He said that he had not had his medication yet that day and that he was having thoughts of seriously harming himself. We immediately supported Steve to ask the prison healthcare manager why no medication had been administered. We were told that Steve was on a ‘see to take’ regime. This meant that he would only be provided with his medication when the healthcare staff were on duty, as he had to be witnessed taking it. Unfortunately healthcare staff were not always available when his medication was due, so it was given to him at irregular intervals.

We supported Steve to make a formal complaint about his inability to take his medication and raised a safeguarding alert as Steve had disclosed that he was having thoughts of self-harming and suicide. Steve was issued with an apology for the way in which his medication was being administered. As a result of our safeguarding alert the prison reviewed the way it administered medication and ensured that there was sufficient healthcare staff available to prisoners who required regular doses of medication.

This significant change ensured that Steve and other individuals in the prison would have proper access to medications vital to maintaining their mental and physical well-being.