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Reducing the risk of self harm at Woodhill Prison


20 March 2017

For immediate release

Reducing the risk of self harm at Woodhill Prison

CNWL has introduced new staff with new ways of working at Woodhill Prison to support the early identification of prisoners with mental health concerns - before these reach crisis levels.

The Trust, which provides both mental and physical healthcare, has hired four new associate practitioners with a fifth to start soon, to reduce levels of self harm and suicide at the prison and to improve mental health generally.

The initiative allows the Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Nurses to concentrate on more serious and complex cases, while still enabling the concerns of prisoners with lower level mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, to be supported, potentially preventing such conditions becoming worse.

Before their introduction, staff could only realistically concentrate on prisoners with complex mental health problems without having the time to help those with lower level problems such as anxiety or depression. This risked the condition worsening increasing the risk of self-harm or suicide.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Rachel Edwards, who co-designed the model, said: "With high levels of self harm and suicide we felt that if we could see people early on we would be able to avoid crisis level interventions.

"Our new practitioners are skilled in this field and are already very busy.

"Informally lots of people are saying that they are finding it really useful that mental health feels more approachable. It makes it easier for people to flag up needs while prison officers are saying they can flag up concerns."

The practitioners are allowed to carry out a variety of roles, but a new part includes each practitioner being exclusively linked to a house unit and spending time with the prisoners in each unit's association area.

This means prisoners get to know and trust the staff while the practitioners can provide information and supportive materials to inmates or to just sit and discuss issues.

Other parts of the role involve:

  • Carrying out basic primary mental health assessments of people referred to them by the Early Days in Custody Nurse to consider whether they need referral to the Primary Mental health Network or whether they can be helped using self-help literature;

  • Conducting time-limited psychological-based interventions or CBT-based interventions and help people to develop strategies to manage their feelings;

  • Following up people who are on the case loads of the nurses and Clinical Psychologist.

Staff plan to start an audit of the initiative to evaluate its success and to make adaptations if required.


Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust
Stephenson House, 75 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PL
Tel: 020 3214 5756 e-mail: