NHS pays out for jail dentistry delays

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Inmates suffering from toothache at a Yorkshire high security prison sued the NHS over poor dental care – leaving taxpayers to pay the £350,000 bill.

Prisoners at HMP Wakefield – which houses notorious criminals including Charles Bronson, Crossbow Cannibal Stephen Griffiths, child killer Robert Black and Sarah Payne’s killer Roy Whiting – received £47,500 in total after 24 damages claims were settled out of court.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show individual payouts ranged from £1,200 to £5,000, depending on the level of pain and suffering caused by the length of time to get dental appointments.

Legal costs came to a further £300,000 after NHS chiefs were forced to pay prisoners’ solicitors fees, bringing the total to £354,500 – with three claims still outstanding.

Gill Galdins, chief operating officer for Wakefield District Primary Care Trust, said the NHS inherited a long waiting list for complex and expensive treatment when it took over prison healthcare in 2005.

She said: “The figures paid to claimants were all relatively low. When this happens it’s often the case that the claimant’s solicitor’s costs are disproportionate.

“A number of cases were successfully rejected.

“Where a patient experiences a breach of duty care and injury follows that they are entitled to compensation.”

A prison service spokeswoman said: “All claims are robustly defended, and would only be settled on the basis of strong legal advice, and in order to seek the best value for the taxpayer.”

However the assistant secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), Glyn Travis, said that his association would not see anyone denied of NHS care whenever they needed it.

He added: “What we do say is they get priority care that they don’t pay for and when they receive poor treatment they sue.

“Solicitors are happy to take their cases because they know they will get paid in the end.

“It is ridiculous, they are suing for treatment they didn’t pay for in the first place.”