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.

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. In the case of secure training centres, we seek agreement from Ofsted, with whom we conduct joint inspections, before doing this.

The Secretary of State responds within 28 calendar days of receiving our letter. The Secretary of State also sends us an Action Plan, which shows how the establishment will address the concerns along with a target date for completion. Our letter to the Secretary of State, as well as the Secretary of State’s response and Action Plan, are published on this page and with the report.

We consider various factors when issuing a UN, including:

  • Poor healthy prison assessments
  • The type of establishment and the risks it presents
  • The vulnerability of those detained
  • The failure to achieve our recommendations from previous inspections
  • Our confidence in the establishment’s capacity to change and improve

We do not use the UN process for our scrutiny visits. These began in 2020 and were designed to report on treatment and conditions in prisons and other places of detention during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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