Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Healthcare and Justice

The prison service is still failing inmates’ healthcare needs

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 26 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m724

Linked Commentary

Incarceration is dehumanising, but good healthcare can restore dignity

Linked Opinion

Why we should worry about prisoners missing hospital appointments

  1. Stephen Armstrong, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. stephen.armstrong{at}

UK prisoners face serious problems in accessing secondary care, the Nuffield Trust has found. Stephen Armstrong asks why

In September 2019 a newborn baby died after an inmate at HMP Bronzefield, Britain’s largest female prison, gave birth alone in her cell at night.1 An inspection by the Independent Monitoring Board, the prison welfare watchdog, had identified “severe shortages” of nurses at the privately run prison, as well as problems in accessing mental health support for inmates.2 Shortly afterwards the Ministry of Justice revealed the number of pregnant prisoners in the system, which in November 2019 was 47.3

This week the Nuffield Trust published an analysis of 2017-18 hospital data showing that prisoners—including pregnant women—faced severe problems in accessing secondary care.4 The research linked data on prisoners’ residences to their use of NHS hospital services—inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care, the reasons for use, and how access compared with the general population. Prisoners accounted for around 12 000 admissions, 18 000 emergency attendances, and 83 000 outpatient appointments.4

Pregnant prisoners

In one year, 56 prisoners gave birth during their prison stay. Of particular concern, says the Nuffield Trust, is that over one in 10 mothers gave birth either in prison or on the way to hospital. It also found that 22% of pregnant prisoners missed midwife appointments and that 30% missed obstetric appointments in 2017-18, compared with 14% and 17% in the …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription