Research Article

Diabetes in prison: can good diabetic care be achieved?

BMJ 1992; 304 doi: (Published 18 January 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;304:152
  1. I. A. MacFarlane,
  2. G. V. Gill,
  3. E. Masson,
  4. N. H. Tucker
  1. Diabetic Centre, Walton Hospital, Liverpool.


    OBJECTIVE--To investigate the clinical characteristics and metabolic control of diabetic patients given structured diabetic care in prison. DESIGN--Survey of diabetic men serving prison sentences during a 22 month period in a large British prison. SETTING--HM Prison, Walton, Liverpool. SUBJECTS--42 male diabetic prisoners, of whom 23 had insulin dependent and 19 non-insulin dependent diabetes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Episodes of diabetic instability, glycated haemoglobin concentrations, body mass index. RESULTS--No serious diabetic instability occurred. Between the initial assessment by the visiting consultant diabetologist and a second assessment 10 weeks later glycated haemoglobin concentrations had fallen from 10.8 (SD 2.9)% to 9.8 (2.4)% (p less than 0.05) in prisoners with insulin dependent diabetes and from 8.7 (1.9)% to 7.6 (1.2)% (p less than 0.05) in those with non-insulin dependent diabetes. Good glycaemic control continued, a mean glycated haemoglobin concentration of 7.6 (1.5)% being recorded in seven men remaining in prison for six to 18 months. Mean body mass index (weight (kg)/(height(m))2) did not change during the study (insulin dependent prisoners 23.3 (SD 2.1), non-insulin dependent prisoners 27.9 (3.8)). CONCLUSIONS--Good diabetic metabolic control is usual in prison, probably due to the rigid dietary regimen, no alcohol, and compliance with treatment. Many younger men had defaulted from their home diabetic clinics, and imprisonment allowed screening for diabetic complications and reassessment of treatment. Structured diabetic care should be offered in all prisons.