Care facilities needed for ill prisoners, says governor

Written by Alan Robertson on 8 December 2014 in News

Prison estate unable to adjust to accommodate growing health problems 

Secure facilities outwith the current prison estate will be needed to house offenders with severe ill health or disability, the governor in charge of one of Scotland’s highest security jails has suggested. 

Nigel Ironside, governor at Glenochil, which holds convicted sex offenders as well as mainstream prisoners sentenced to over four years, acknowledged that changes to the prison’s physical infrastructure amid increasing healthcare needs constituted a “patch fix”.

One in five of Glenochil’s 600-plus population is aged over 50. About 15 prisoners require assisted daily living, while up to 70 would need some sort of assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation. 

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has no plans to reintroduce hospital units across its estate, said Ironside. Instead, he suggested SPS, the NHS and COSLA should focus on a regional model that encompasses “a shared collaborative facility that allows secure care in an environment that is care-orientated but also has a fairly strong security element to it”.

A high healthcare needs strategy group is undertaking research into the future profile of the prison population and how best to manage acute and chronic healthcare issues as well as palliative care. 

He said: “We’re not just talking about old men, of course. There are young offenders who have terminal illness and there are also female offenders who have terminal illness, so how do you manage that mix appropriately in an arena that provides secure but dignified care. 

“For some terminal cases, they might be terminal for quite a long period of time and it might be that it’s appropriate to keep them in this environment before they would go to another environment when their health starts to deteriorate. 

“What is very obvious to us is that managing them in our current prison estate, which is designed really for maximising spaces and was designed on that premise, is not appropriate and we can’t adjust it to fix it. So something different – a new design – in an appropriate location is really what we’re talking about.”

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