Healthcare services at Yarl’s Wood detention centre are still inadequate, report says

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 26 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1734
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

    The mental health needs of adult detainees at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre are still not being met and several of the healthcare services provided continue to fall short of expectations, says a report by the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers.

    In her report on the state of the centre last November, Dame Anne found that a mental health needs assessment of adult detainees was yet to be developed. She also found that despite earlier recommendations healthcare staff at the centre had not received training in the recognition and treatment of signs of trauma and torture.

    Dame Anne also reiterated previous recommendations that a health needs assessment should be completed as soon as possible to identify the healthcare requirements of the centre’s population and that it should take into account general and mental health needs, including those of the children held at the centre.

    She has recommended that detainees should have access to a dedicated healthcare patients’ forum and that Serco, the private company that runs the centre, use the Department of Health’s national service frameworks on healthcare provision.

    Last week it emerged that three doctors working at the detention centre are facing investigation by the General Medical Council after calls for health care at the centre to be transferred from the private sector to the NHS.

    The BMJ understands that the doctors have been referred to the GMC after complaints over numerous alleged cases of substandard patient care. The investigation follows a succession of damning reports highlighting inadequate health care at the Bedfordshire centre.

    Concerns are growing about health care at Yarl’s Wood, which is the responsibility of Serco. Last month the children’s commissioner raised concerns about “significant areas” of care for the 1000 children held at Yarl’s Wood, saying it fell below NHS standards (BMJ 2010;340:c1030 doi:10.1136/bmj.c1030).

    Two MPs have recently called for Serco to be stripped of responsibility for health care at Yarl’s Wood and for it to be given to the NHS. John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said that there was an “underlying conflict of interest” in allowing a private profit making company running health care at the centre. And Alistair Burt, Tory MP for North East Bedfordshire, described health care as the weak link at the centre.

    Commenting on the report Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said, “Detention is a vital tool in removing those deemed to have no right to remain in the country. Removal centres are a necessary part of enforcing the removal of those who refuse to depart voluntarily. It is vital that they are well-run, safe and secure and we are pleased to note HMCIP’s [Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons’] acknowledgment of significant improvement in a number of areas.”

    Overall Dame Anne’s report did conclude that healthcare provision had improved in general particularly for children, with specialist mental and physical health services.

    The report on an unannounced full follow-up inspection of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre is at


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1734

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