Personal Views

Should prisoners have a say in prison health care?

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 05 July 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:65
  1. Luke Birmingham, clinical research associate in forensic psychiatry, Newcastle upon Tyne

    The prison service is rarely out of the media spotlight. One issue is the delivery of health care, which was the subject of a report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, entitled Patient or Prisoner? A new strategy for health care in prisons.

    The prison medical service may have taken on a new look for the 1990s and changed its name to the healthcare service for prisoners following the efficiency scrutiny seven years ago, but it seems that this face lift has achieved little and fooled no one. With continuing cutbacks, an escalating prison population, and a growing suicide rate in prisons, is it any wonder that morale among prison staff is low and that there should be an increasing gap between health services provided inside and outside prisons? Many prisoners have only limited contact with healthcare services.

    Official reports scrutinising the needs of prisoners draw information from many sources, but the opinion of the prisoner is seldom sought. An opportunity to work with remand prisoners has led me to believe that more attention needs to be paid to prisoners' opinions. Policies which are implemented without taking these views into consideration are one sided and are unlikely to be effective.

    As part of my research …

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