New guidance for the transfer and remission of adult prisoners and immigration removal centre detainees

Back in 2018 NHS England and NHS Improvement undertook a period of engagement followed by a formal consultation in 2019 on guidance relating to individuals held within prisons and immigration removal centres (IRCs) who have been detained under the Mental Health Act for assessment and treatment within mental health in-patient services – you can read our earlier blog here.

While there is 2011 guidance in respect of prisons, there has not, to date, been guidance in respect of IRCs. This recent engagement activity has informed updates to the 2011 guidance, as well as the development of new guidance for IRCs.

On 10 June NHS England and NHS Improvement published new good practice guidance documents which supersede and replace the 2011 guidance published by the Department of Health (as was). They cover the process for transferring and remitting patients in England to and from prisons, IRCs and mental health, learning disability and/or autism inpatient services. Each guidance document outlines the timeframes for completing the referral, assessment and transfer.

You can read the consultation report here which has helped inform the new guidance documents:


These guidance documents are designed to promote good practice and support effective joint working between the agencies involved in the transfer and remission processes, providing benefit to the patient and timely and effective treatment.

Looking at the guidance for adult prisoners, the standout points are:

  • Chapter 3 contains a helpful table at page 8
  • Following the Independent Review of the MHA there are two new sequential time limits of 14 days each from the point of initial referral to the first psychiatric assessment and from the first psychiatric assessment until transfer takes place
  • The guidance references a whole range of topics from telemedicine, responsible commissioner / Who Pays and the Mental Capacity Act
  • At page 11 there is a further table of timescales relating to section 47, in particular
  • Chapter 4 covers remission to prison and a table for that is set out at page 13
  • Forms and flowcharts can be found at pages 16-33

So whether you are a mental health, learning disability and autism provider, manage prison mental health services or offender personality disorder services, a CCG, a NHS-led provider collaborative or Integrated Care System, HMPPS or Ministry of Justice, or a IRC mental health services providers these good practice guides are compulsory reading.

As readers know we currently await the Government’s formal report on Reforming the Mental Health Act White Paper, which will inform the development of the planned Mental Health Bill.

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