Nuffield Trust comments on prison health report

A lack of data means we are flying blind when it comes to understanding prisoners’ health needs and how to meet them.

Press release

Published: 01/11/2018

Commenting on the Health Select Committee’s report on prison health [1], Nuffield Trust Senior Research Analyst Dr Miranda Davies [2] said:

“This sobering report sets out clearly why the health and wellbeing of our prison population is everyone’s business. As well as the moral case for ensuring prisoners receive the same access to high quality care as the rest of the population, the Committee highlights that improved healthcare could improve the safety of prisons, tackle health inequalities and reduce reoffending.

“Yet, as the Committee found, we still know very little about how prisoners’ health compares to that of the general population, with sparse or patchy publicly available data on both the physical and mental health of the prison population in England and Wales. This means we are flying blind when it comes to understanding prisoners’ health needs and how to meet them.

“Our multi-year research programme will seek, for the first time, to shed light on the physical health of the prison population, through statistical analysis of hospital data [3]. We therefore welcome the Committee’s recommendation that Government design a ‘comprehensive and robust approach to identifying the health and care needs of people in prison’ and hope that our analysis can form a useful part of that process.”

Notes to editors

  1.  The Health Select Committee’s report Prison health: Twelfth Report of Session 2017–19 was published at 00.01 on Thursday 1 November. For further information, please visit
  2.  Dr Miranda Davies is leading the Nuffield Trust’s programme of work on prison health, funded by The Health Foundation.
  3.  Using routine hospital data, the Nuffield Trust’s research will be the first study of its kind to describe prisoners’ use of hospital services, aiming to better understand the health care needs of prisoners, their use of health services and how quality of care compares to those not in prison. The final report will be published in the second half of 2019. 
  4. For further information about the prison health project, please visit
  5. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.

For more information, please contact: Leonora Merry in the Nuffield Trust press office on 020 7462 0555 or 07920 043 709.