Health fears for Suffolk prisoners

MANY more improvements are today still needed to health services in two Suffolk jails where prisoners were described as among the most disadvantaged people in the area.

MANY more improvements are today still needed to health services in two Suffolk jails where prisoners were described as among the most disadvantaged people in the area.

Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust's board meeting will be told today that progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.

Last year's Public Health report identified the men and teenage boys held at Hollesley Bay and Warren Hills prisons, which cater for about 470 offenders, to be "amongst the most disadvantaged in our population".

Their health risks were much higher with 88 per cent of the juveniles smoking and 80pc having used illegal drugs.

They also suffered higher levels of physical and mental health problems when compared to those in the community of similar age.

During the past year the PCT has worked closely with the prison as part of a project to take over its health service and improve health care.

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In her annual report for the PCT on health issues in its area, director of public health Dr Amanda Jones said a number of initiatives were now under way.

"Last year's public health report identified the 'huge challenge' of improving the health of prisoners who often spend relatively short periods within prison before returning to the community – often in counties outside Suffolk," she said.

"The rapid turnover means that long term outcomes are difficult to assess, but we can ensure that services provided are of good quality and that prisoners have access to the primary and secondary services they require.

"Some of the work has started but many improvements are needed, especially in the provision of specialist mental health services to prisoners."

Involving the PCT in taking over health care – a pilot scheme heralding PCTs nationwide taking over prison health services – had helped.

Health care staff within prisons can be professionally isolated and integration into a PCT means they have all the opportunities and peer support of the other doctors and staff working in the community.

Projects have included receiving national funding for two specialist psychiatry posts which will be based at the prisons but work with the Adult and Child and Adolescent teams providing services to Suffolk Coastal residents.

The prisons had also received an increase in the funding for health care and additional staff had been appointed.

The PCT has obtained workforce development funding to enable a prison health care officer to begin training as a registered nurse, work had been done on smoking cessation, sexual health and local dental services, priorities for future improvements had been agreed, and regional funding gained for additional clinical time to address some of the Blood Borne Virus problems.

WEBLINK: www.hmprisonservice.gov.uk

www.suffolkcoastal-pct.nhs.uk

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