The smoking ban, welfare benefits and Broadmoor Special Hospital

As mentioned in the previous post, I spent a big chunk of yesterday visiting Broadmoor Special Hospital, in my capacity as Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody.  Most of the discussion and the issues we looked at will inform the work of the Panel.  However, a number of other issues emerged in passing.

It was mentioned that many of the patients now had more money than they did before the smoking ban, as they no longer spend money on cigarettes.  I asked whether the introduction of the smoking ban – applied throughout the hospital site – had raised any specific issues (I remember comments when the legislation was going through Parliament about the problems that were thought likely to arise in prisons and other institutions).  In practice, comparatively few difficulties had arisen.  Nicotine interacts with some medications and this had had to be monitored closely at the time the ban came in and dosages needed some adjustment.  Many patients, we were told, now acknowledged that they were physically healthier, although some had switched their spending from tobacco to chocolate and sweets.

Tensions did arise when individuals were transferred from prison (where smoking is still permitted) to the hospital and have to stop smoking.  However, the biggest source of tension was the difference in income of those transferred from prison and those detained in the Hospital under mental health legislation.  Apparently, prisoners and those transferred from prison only receive “pocket money” of around £17 per week.  Those detained under mental health legislation and who have never been in prison are on welfare benefits and, following a court ruling that it is unlawful to reduce benefits for those detained in hospital for long periods, receive some £80 to £100 per week.  This is clearly an anomaly and I have to admit to being quite relieved that it is not a problem for which my Panel has to find a solution.

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