Prisoner health: prisoners’ use of secondary care services

Understanding prisoners’ health care needs, how their use of health care services has changed over time and the quality of care received.


Published: 17/06/2020

Project status: Current

Delivery of health care in prisons and other secure settings presents unique challenges. There is a lack of quantitative evidence regarding how the physical health care needs of prisoners are changing over time, as well as how the quality of health care in secure settings compares to that received in the wider community.

Building on the Nuffield Trust’s previous prisoner health work, this project will use hospital data (Hospital Episode Statistics) as a means of determining how prisoners’ use of secondary care services has changed over the last four years, and how it compares to use of services of a matched sample in the general population.

Monitoring the change in use of hospital services year on year is important both as a sign of the impact of conditions in the prison estate, as well as developments in policy and practice on prisoner health care usage. This work will also enable us to identify changing levels of health care need in a population with complex needs and an ageing profile.

We will use routine data to describe prisoners’ use of hospital services from 2016/17 to 2019/20. We will carry out a basic comparison of use of secondary care in 2019/20 with a matched sample from the non-prisoner population, as well as developing a protocol for the selection of a matched sample comparison group, which will draw on data from 2016/17 to 2019/20.

Underpinning this work will be an analysis of relevant policy and related literature, which will help to interpret and explain findings emerging from the quantitative analysis.

The project will be supported by an expert panel of representatives working in the area of prisons or prison health care. They will sense-check the findings, provide targeted expertise in their specific knowledge areas, and shape broader policy recommendations arising from the work as well as supporting dissemination.

The project started in June 2020 and will run until July 2021.

This work is funded by The Health Foundation. The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.

Please contact Miranda Davies for further details.