Improve healthcare in prisons within two years, Health Committee tells Scottish Government

Written by Jenni Davidson on 10 May 2017 in News

Bringing healthcare in prisons to the same level as in the wider community was a key aim of transferring responsibility to the NHS

Glenochil Prison - Image credit: Brian Smith

The Scottish Government must produce a plan for healthcare in prisons to reach the same level as in the rest of the country within two years, a Holyrood committee has said.

The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee has called on the Scottish Government to lay out how it will improve prison healthcare in prisons, in line with intentions set out when responsibility for prison healthcare was transferred to the NHS six years ago.

Achieving parity of care with the wider community was a key aim of the 2011 transfer of healthcare delivery from the Scottish Prison Service to the NHS.


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However, a report by the Heath and Sport Committee says that the promised improvements have not been achieved and the prison population in Scotland has been underserved by the changes.

The committee heard that up to 50 per cent of clinical time was being wasted due to missed appointments because of difficulties in transferring prisoners to prison health centres.

MSPs looked at whether the opportunity to address health inequalities among the prison population, a group which might not otherwise tend to engage with healthcare system, and found that this was not being fully taken up.

It has also called for better treatment for mental health in prisons, after hearing evidence that suggested that around 70 per cent of prisoners have mental health problems.

Neil Findlay MSP, Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, said: “The overriding impression we took from our evidence is of a population very much underserved by the shift to NHS provision of care in Scotland’s prisons.

“This is a particular concern with our prisons housing growing numbers of older prisoners with more complex health and care needs.

“The point of transferring prison healthcare from the prison service to the NHS was to ensure prisoners receive healthcare equivalent to that of the wider community in Scotland.

“It also offered a unique opportunity to address health inequalities within the prison environment, so it’s disappointing to discover that that opportunity is not being taken up.

“The fact that missed appointments are accounting for 50 per cent of clinical time represents a waste of resources that needs to be addressed through better joint working between the SPS, health boards and contractors.”

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