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Improving the physical and mental health of people in prison is a top priority for this Government. It is recognised that there are large numbers of people in prison with mental ill health, and it is essential that they are treated in the most appropriate environment for their needs.
When people do go to prison, they should receive the same standard and access to National Health Service healthcare treatments and care as people in the community.
Since April 2013, NHS England has commissioned health services for prisoners in England. Public Health England guidance supports NHS England commissioners and health care providers to undertake Health Needs Assessments which are a method for reviewing the health issues facing the prison population. The guidance advises that Health Needs Assessments are undertaken every three years, with an annual ‘refresh’.
NHS England is working with partners in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and Public Health England to improve and redesign services for people in prison with mental health needs. This includes revising approaches to secure hospital transfers under sections 48 and 49 of the Mental Health Act 1983 when a person needs to be in a hospital setting for their mental health. NHS England is reviewing the mental health service specification for prisons, in line with the commitment set out in the Next Steps for the Five Year Forward View.
It is important to ensure that care started in prison can be continued on release into the community. Enabling offenders to access necessary treatment and support is vital to reduce reoffending. Progress has been made in this area and general practitioner (GP) practices are now required to pre-register prisoners prior to their release.
This is further aided by work on the Health and Justice Information System. From 2019, NHS England will introduce the system to enable patient data to be shared with community services for the first time. This means that on release from prison, the patients up-to-date clinical record can be transferred to the GP with whom the person registers. This information sharing is key to ensuring continuity of care.