Thursday 27th January 2011 saw the unveiling of the newly refurbished central health unit at Wandsworth Prison. The unit has been completely overhauled, with what was formerly considered a grey, soulless, drab and depressing environment replaced by a vibrant and comfortable setting which has helped to encourage inmates to access health education, support and treatment. Services at the prison are provided by a St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust multi-disciplinary nurse-led team that also includes GPs, dentists, sexual health specialists and pharmacists.

The overhaul of the health unit is part of the King’s Fund Enhancing the Healing Environment project, a grants and development programme run by the King’s Fund in partnership with Her Majesty’s Prison Service and Offender Health (a partnership between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health).

A team of healthcare staff at Wandsworth Prison successfully won a £30,000 grant from the project, with NHS Wandsworth and the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) contributing a further £10,000 each. The nurse-led team behind the overhaul included service users, estates staff, arts co-ordinators and Julie Thompson, HMP Wandsworth Residential Governor.

The money has been spent on improving the reception area and treatment rooms, converting the healthcare areas of the prison so that they are welcoming and relaxing.

Sarah Waller, Jim O'Gorman and Bernadette McGreevey

Left to right: Sarah Waller, Jim O’Gorman and Bernadette McGreevey

Bernadette McGreevy, Sister at Wandsworth Prison, said:

“There is a wealth of research evidence to show the positive impact that the environment can have on health so we were really keen to take advantage of the King’s Fund expertise in this area, and we are already seeing the benefits of this programme. There has been a really noticeable effect on patients’ self esteem as they feel like they are being treated in an environment that they would be happy to be treated in if they were in the community. We are also starting to see improved health outcomes and more inmates willing to access health education and support as well as treatment”

Jim O’Gorman, Head of Healthcare at Wandsworth Prison, said:

“It is important to recognise that prisoners are normal people like you and I. Their needs are the same and they want to be treated with dignity and respect, the basic things that we would demand, and being treated in areas like, that are comparable to facilities in the community, can be a catalyst for change. It was important that staff worked with the inmates in every aspect of designing the new environment, increasing engagement with our service users and helping but it has helped us to establish new ways of consulting them.”

Emma Leegood, Lead Nurse at Wandsworth Prison, said:

“Prisoners access health services 77 more times a year than an average person in the community, and we have a responsibility to make sure that those services are provided in the best possible environment with the best possible facilities.”

Sarah Waller, King’s Fund programme director for the Enhancing the Healing Environment, said:

“For many prisoners real opportunities exist to access healthcare services, sometimes for the first time in many years, whilst they are in prison. It is therefore very important that healthcare and health promotion activities are delivered in an environment that encourages people to attend clinics and supports therapeutic interventions. The project at Wandsworth has been planned in consultation with prisoners and staff and has greatly improved facilities for the delivery of healthcare in the prison. We hope it will encourage more prisoners to access and benefit from the range of healthcare services available.”

Notes to editors

  1. Emma Leegood, Lead Nurse at HMP Wandsworth, and Jim O’Gorman, Head of Healthcare Services at HMP Wandsworth, are available for interview to discuss new patient facilities at HMP Wandsworth, including the development of a new walk-in centre for inmates, X-ray screening, diabetic retinopathy and a new inpatient unit which reduces the need for patients to have to be transferred to hospitals for treatment.
  2. Photographs of the refurbished health facilities at Wandsworth Prison are available on request.
  3. For more information, please contact contact the communications unit on 020 8725 5151 or email Outside working hours, please page us by calling St George’s 07659 146548 and leave a message for pager SG548. High res photos available on request.