Read Urgent Notifications on the reports page of our website.

We launched Urgent Notifications (UNs) in 2017. A UN is not an inspection, but is a process that may occur if we are particularly concerned about outcomes for detainees.

Following an inspection of a prison, young offender institution or secure training centre, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons may identify significant concerns about the treatment and conditions of those detained.

If this happens, we let the governor of the establishment know that we will be issuing a UN and the Chief Inspector writes to the Secretary of State for Justice within seven calendar days of the end of the inspection. In the case of secure training centres, we seek agreement from HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted and the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care before doing this.

The Chief Inspector provides notification of the concerns and the reasons for them, summarising the judgements from the inspection and identifying the areas for improvement.

We consider various factors when issuing a UN, including:

  • poor healthy prison test assessments
  • the pattern of the healthy prison test judgements
  • repeated poor assessments
  • the type of prison and the risks presented
  • the vulnerability of those detained
  • the failure to address areas of concern or achieve recommendations
  • the Inspectorate’s confidence in the establishment’s capacity for change and improvement.

Having received an urgent notification, the Secretary of State has 28 calendar days to publicly respond to the concerns raised in the published letter. The response will explain how outcomes for those detained in the institution will be improved in both the immediate and longer term.

Following an urgent notification of a prison or YOI, HMI Prisons will reinspect the establishment in due course at a date determined by its risk-based scheduling process. Following an urgent notification of an STC, the next inspection or visit will take place in accordance with the Joint Inspection Framework.

The UN process is outlined in section 7 of our protocol with the Ministry of Justice (2 MB).