BARLINNIE is struggling to support the number of inmates who want to stop smoking because of over capacity in the jail and staff shortages, according to health officials.

All prisons in Scotland moved to ‘smoke-free’ in November 30 last year and demand for help to quit services including behavioural support and nicotine replacement therapy is said to have ‘exceeded demand.’

Barlinnie has seen the biggest increase in referrals for help - from 90 in November 2018 to 190 in December (110% increase).

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said extra staff were recruited in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service to deliver services.

But while demand is being met at Low Moss and Greenock jails, there are “on-going issues” at Barlinnie due to the jail running at 40% over capacity and waiting lists for support have soared.

The estimated prevalence of smoking amongst the prison population in Scotland has historically been 68%, nearly four times higher than in the general population (18%).

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NHSGGC Board papers state: “There are on-going issues at HMP Barlinnie which means that demand for the service is currently not being met with approx 80 people on the waiting list.

“ This is primarily due to the fact the population at HMP Barlinnie is 40% above capacity, increasing pressures and demands on staff.

“There is a lack of SPS staff to escort those in custody to their stop smoking group which is further adding to the waiting lists and limiting the effectiveness of the service.

“These challenges are subject to ongoing discussion with SPS management and constant service development is in place to ensure services are as responsive as possible.”

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The health board said there are also challenges around the cost of supplying e-cigarettes to inmates.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “The challenges associated in safely managing an increasing prison population can unfortunately impact on the delivery of services but we continue to work with our partners to support those in our care who wish to attend the groups.”