Public spending watchdog says it is unclear how inmates’ mental health can be improved with current levels of funding and insufficient data

Prisons have “struggled to cope” with record rates of suicide and self-harm among inmates following cuts to funding and staff numbers, the public spending watchdog has said. The National Audit Office said it remains unclear how the authorities will meet aims for improving prisoners’ mental health or get value for money because of a lack of relevant data.

Auditors said that self-harm incidents increased by 73% between 2012 and 2016 to 40,161, while the 120 self-inflicted deaths in prison in 2016 was the highest figure on record and almost double that for 2012. Since 2010, when David Cameron became prime minister, funding of offender management has been reduced by 13%, while staff numbers have been cut by 30%, the report said.

Related: Prisons taking role of care homes and hospices as older population soars

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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