An investigation is underway after 65 prisoners signed a petition criticising the medical services at Edinburgh prison.

The inmates have alleged “serious medical neglect” and claim that a prisoner who died recently did not get the help he needed.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is responsible for penal institutions, but healthcare is a matter for the NHS.

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This newspaper has obtained a copy of a petition signed by dozens of prisoners that is critical of the access to medical care.

They wrote: “We, the long term prisoners at Edinburgh prison, want to express and register our deep concern of what amounts to medical neglect at this prison.”

In May, 35 year old James Sneddon, who had been jailed for attempted murder and firearms charges, reportedly died of organ failure.

He was serving sentences totalling 19 years at HMP Edinburgh when he became ill.

The petition claimed: “On the 6th May a prisoner here, James Sneddon, died as a result of liver and heart failure following an illness that he had sought treatment for over a month.

“The attitude of medical staff here to James Sneddon’s attempts to receive appropriate treatment can only be described as dismissive, and it is an attitude characteristic of medical staff here to prisoners generally who seek help and treatment.”

They continued: “James Sneddon is not the first prisoner to die here in circumstances that raise serious concerns about the behaviour and attitude of medical staff.

“Such is our concern now that we seek by this petition to communicate and highlight those concerns to those in a position to hopefully deal with them in a manner that addresses the problem and issue of serious medical neglect here at HMP Edinburgh.”

Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, which examines the conditions facing inmates, published an inspection report into the Edinburgh jail in 2013.

It noted that “general” healthcare service was “good”, but noted that the provision of addictions and mental health specialist care was “challenging”.

The report also stated: “It is concerning that Doctors' clinics are cancelled with growing regularity and reported to be as a result of high levels of sick absence among the pool of Doctors.

“Cancellation of clinics has a detrimental effect on the efficiency of health centre activity and can contribute to delays to medical assessments and treatment.”

Jim Farish, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “I can advise that a communication, signed by a number of prisoners held in HMP Edinburgh, was received by this office which highlighted concerns about healthcare provision within the establishment.

“We informed the SPS of the receipt of the petition, and have sought and received assurances that the matters raised are being appropriately addressed."

An SPS spokesperson said the service was aware of the petition, but said healthcare is a matter for NHS Lothian.

Professor Alex McMahon, Director of Strategic Planning/REAS and Prison Healthcare at the health board, said:

“We have responded to prisoners at HMP Edinburgh and are taking their concerns seriously. An investigation is currently underway and we will look to take forward any identified actions or recommendations.

“We would like to reassure the prisoners concerned that we are committed to ensuring that our healthcare standards are met through high quality, equitable services for all.”