Hospital Dr News

Prisoners missing out on hospital treatment, new research reveals

Four in ten hospital appointments made for prisoners are cancelled or missed and they receive around a quarter less hospital care than expected compared to the general population.

That’s according to new analysis of prisoners’ use of hospital care in England, published today by health think tank the Nuffield Trust.

Drawing on over 110,000 patient hospital records for prisoners at 112 prisons in 2017-18, the study provides the most in depth look to date at how prisoners’ health needs are being met in hospital.

The Nuffield Trust says these findings raise concerns about how prisoners are able to access hospital care, highlighting the legacy impact of a drop in frontline prison staff alongside the burgeoning prison population.

This, the think tank says, is likely to have reduced the numbers of prison escorts to transport and guard prisoners whilst at hospital, meaning cancelled appointments and restricted access to hospital care for all but the most urgent of cases.

Prisoners had 24% fewer inpatient admissions and outpatient attendances than the same age and sex demographic in the wider population, and 45% fewer attendances at accident and emergency departments in 2017/18

Forty per cent of outpatient appointments for prisoners were not attended (32,987 appointments), double the proportion of non-attended appointments in the general population.

Prisoners have particular health needs related to violence, drug use and self-harm, with injury and poisoning accounting for 18% of admissions compared to 6% in the general population.

Psychoactive substance use was recorded in more than 25% of all inpatient admissions by prisoners

Commenting on the research, lead author Dr Miranda Davies, a Senior Fellow at the Nuffield Trust said: “The punishment of being in prison should not extend to curbing people’s rights to healthcare. Yet our analysis suggests that prisoners are missing out on potentially vital treatment and are experiencing many more cancelled appointments than non-prisoners.

“As well as the moral case for high quality prisoner health, improving prisoners’ access to hospital care makes sense from a practical and financial perspective too. Delays in treating conditions such as cancer or diabetes early can result in longer and more complex treatments when prisoners do eventually get to hospital.

“Ensuring prisoners receive the healthcare they need is also a vital part of rehabilitation and could help ensure people leave prison less likely to reoffend.”

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