Coastal GPs take over prison healthcare

HEALTH problems among prisoners have hit the spotlight as Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust becomes one of the first in the country to take over the healthcare of prisons.

HEALTH problems among prisoners have hit the spotlight as Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust becomes one of the first in the country to take over the healthcare of prisons.

Suffolk Coastal PCT is expected to take over the running of Hollesley Bay and Warren Hill in April next year.

In April this year the Home Office transferred all responsibility and funding for healthcare in prisons to the Department of Health.

This responsibility will transfer to PCTs with an added investment of £46 million by April 2006. However, a small number of PCTs, like Suffolk Coastal will take over the running of primary healthcare services such as GP services to prisoners from April 2004.

Dr Amanda Jones, director of public health for Suffolk Coastal PCT, said: "Being chosen as one of the first trusts in the country to be given the opportunity to provide healthcare in our local prisons is a challenge for the PCT."

Prisoners across the country have more physical and mental health problems than those of the same age in the community, and for many prisoners this is their first opportunity to get treatment.

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Healthcare staff working in prisons can become professionally isolated, and the opportunity of working with others in the PCT will benefit both staff and prisoners.

Figures published by the Home Office highlight mental illness, drug dependency and communicable diseases are the main health problems among prisoners and that 90 per cent of all prisoners have a diagnosable mental health problem, substance misuse or both.

Suicide rates are higher and around 20 per cent of them are infected with Hepatitis B and 30 per cent with Hepatitis C.

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