Support our Nation today - please donate here

Hundreds of staff trained in use of anti-opioid medicine following deaths at Welsh prison

13 May 2024 4 minute read
HMP Parc. Photo via Google

About 400 prison staff have been trained to use an anti-opioid medicine amid a spate of deaths which are believed to be drug-related, a minister has said.

Justice minister Edward Argar was also questioned why staff at HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales, were not being X-rayed following claims they could be responsible for bringing drugs into the prison.

Nine people have died at HMP Parc since the end of February, with Mr Argar telling the Commons: “It is important to note that these deaths are not all drug-related. However, four have so far been linked to substance misuse, with another potentially so.”

Two deaths in May, of a man who murdered his wife and a teenager, are not linked to substance abuse.


South Wales Police has said the drug Nitazene, an opioid which can be many times stronger than heroin, has been connected to four of the prisoners who have died.

Mr Argar told MPs that His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPSS) and G4S, the operator of the prison, were working closely to prevent drugs entering the prison, including through “extensive searches of prisoners and staff”.

He added: “We have also expanded the use of Naloxone at the prison, focusing on duty managers and night staff. Around 400 members of staff in total at HMP and YOI Parc are now trained to carry the drug during working hours.”

Opioid overdose

Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and can have an impact within minutes.

Stephen Crabb, Conservative chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, asked about reports that staff members were responsible for bringing drugs into HMP Parc.

Mr Crabb said: “The minister knows there have been multiple allegations of staff bringing illegal substances into the prison. A current prisoner at Parc recently wrote to the Welsh Affairs Committee: ‘Drugs are everywhere in prison, from cannabis to heroin and the so-called spice.

“‘Dribs and drabs may enter through visits and some by way of drone, but let us not confuse the issue, far more comes in by people employed in prisons’.”

The Tory MP said a written question from him to ministers revealed that no members of staff were X-rayed for illicit substances when entering prisons in England and Wales.

Mr Crabb asked: “Can he say why not? And in the absence of those kind of measures, what action he is taking to ensure that all the staff who work in these difficult prisons actually share in the safety culture and are not part of the problem?”

Mr Argar stressed that the “overwhelming majority” of staff worked honestly and with “good intent”.

He added: “It is right that we continue to root out those that don’t, and in that context we continue to work with police forces around the country where prisons are located but including in this case, where there is evidence, take action against prison staff – not just prison officers, but any staff in the prison.”


Labour MP Chris Elmore, who raised an urgent question about the prison in the Commons, claimed social media had driven “an absolute wild west assumption around what is happening inside the prison”.

The Ogmore MP said: “He touched briefly on what is happening across the Bridgend community, and one of the concerns is that the prison is a catalyst for spice being transferred in and out of the prison.

“Can he expand on what work can be done with the MoJ (Ministry of Justice), with Public Health Wales officials, and with the Bridgend County Borough Council intervention teams to try and bring some sort of control to the drug abuse that is taking place inside and outside of the prison?”

The minister replied: “Nitazene is something we are looking at… it is a very strong drug, and that is something that we are looking at very carefully.”

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.