Providing Offender Healthcare: Healthier – Inside and Out
Getting the balance right behind bars is what it’s all about for trust staff working at HMP Wandsworth.
The Offender Healthcare Service, led by Jo Darrow, has been set up to improve the health of offenders whilst working in an environment designed to limit their liberty.
Jo relishes her job at HMP Wandsworth, one of the largest prisons in Western Europe with a capacity for 1665 prisoners and up to 600 new prisoners entering its doors each month.
She says: “Depriving someone of healthcare or deliberately providing second rate healthcare is not an acceptable form of punishment for any humane society.
Offenders do their time as punishment for their crimes, but healthcare provision is a basic human right that should always be dealt with separately from their sentence.”
Jo also considers the bigger picture; the impact on public health when prisoners are released from prison without their healthcare needs having been addressed.
These pose a risk to communities through the transmission of diseases and the burden of mental health problems.
Jo appreciates the support of the prison’s governor, Kenny Brown, who also understands that maintaining and improving the health of the prison population is as beneficial for local communities as it is for the offenders.
National research on the offender population indicates that a significant number of prisoners declare little or no contact with a GP or nurse prior to detention. In addition there are higher rates of smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, substance misuse and mental health problems. Tuberculosis is a particular problem due to risk factors such as substance misuse and homelessness. Additionally, the number of prisoners aged over 60 years is increasing considerably.
In Spring this year, a consortium led by the trust, comprising South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and existing dental and optician providers, won a five year contract to run the prison’s healthcare services.
The consortium’s success was based on their commitment to deliver fast and easy access to qualified healthcare professionals 24 hours a day. The range of services and the different healthcare roles at the prison is developing all the time. There is a strong emphasis on screening, assessment and prevention and a growing recognition of the need to tackle and, if possible, resolve mental health problems.
Jo and her consortium partners have ambitions to create a health and wellbeing service that will become a national centre of excellence for offender healthcare services.
She says: “The environment may be a bit daunting but once you get used to it, the security measures become normal. We have a strong team here who work well together and are focused on providing first class healthcare.”
Exciting job opportunities at HMP Wandsworth
The service is particularly keen to recruit Band 8a Advanced Nurse Practitioners and band 5 and 6 registered nurses from a wide variety of hospital and community nursing backgrounds. You don’t have to have prison experience.
If you are interested in job opportunities with the Offender Healthcare Service, enjoy a challenge and want to help shape an excellent service, please call Jo Darrow or Helen Spencer-Hicks on 020 8588 4342/4128 for an informal chat and to discuss arranging a visit to see what it is like to work at HMP Wandsworth.
*See the NHS jobs website for details of healthcare posts at HMP Wandsworth (HMPW).