Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the prison population has shrunk by approximately 6%, from just under 83,000 people in March 20201to around 78,000 people in March 20212 – the smallest it has been since 20063.
While people are in prison they are still entitled to receive health care, and the ambition of the National Prison Healthcare Board is that prison health care is equivalent to the health care received by the general population4. But prison is a unique environment in which to provide this, as delivering health care to prisoners is secondary to the primary function of the prison, and the custodial environment impacts on how care can be delivered day-to-day.
Poor working conditions and falling application rates mean the availability of prison escorts or escort slots continues to lead to access challenges. Meanwhile, many people are entering prison with specific health needs but it is not clear if prisons are equipped to meet these demands.
This research report follows our first report into prisoner health care and reviews the recommendations in light of new data and draws on admitted patient care and outpatient data as well as a review of recent policy literature. It also considers the new evidence in relation to: pre-existing health conditions, remote consultations, different ethnic groups' use of health services, the early impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and improving understanding of people's health care needs on entry to prison.
This project was funded by The Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.
Davies M, Keeble E and Hutchings R (2021) Injustice? Towards a better understanding of health care access challenges for prisoners Research report, Nuffield Trust