Hepatitis: Prisons

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 23rd February 2021.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make an assessment of the effect on the efficacy of prison diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C of (a) short sentence lengths, (b) short periods spent in prison on remand, (c) short recalls to prison and (d) the use of prisons as a place of safety.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

Prisons in England use an ‘opt-out’ testing offer to diagnose hepatitis C infection. Testing is offered either at reception into prison or within 72 hours at the more extensive healthcare assessment. Individuals can be diagnosed, referred to a virtual consultation with the specialist treatment team and start treatment within days. Hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment for prisoners on a short sentence and remand will, to an extent, rely upon the prisoner rate of uptake for offered tests.

For those who start but do not complete treatment, medicines can be provided to take out on release and a ‘Follow Me’ facility can be used to ensure patients remain engaged with their treatment. Prisoners on short recalls are unlikely to start treatment within a one to two-week period. However, they will receive the opt-out testing offer and referral processes are in place for those individuals testing positive. If individuals are already diagnosed and/or have started treatment, this can be continued through case management between prison health and the trust specialist treatment team.

Prisons should not be used as a place of safety as alternative provision is available and more suitable for people who need to be kept safe.

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