Prisoners are at risk of being transferred without crucial medication, according to our latest healthcare safety investigation report.

Errors and delays

The report, published today (10 October 2019), reveals errors and delays in the prison healthcare system. Our investigation looks into the case study of Martin, a 43-year old inmate, who suffered multiple seizures after his epilepsy medication wasn’t transferred with him to a new prison.

Each day around 120 prisoners with ongoing medication needs are moved between jails. Martin’s case is just one example of a serious outcome when medication was missed. Prisoners may also need to be treated in the community at local hospitals, with prison security staff being taken away from planned duties to accompany them.

Lack of medication management

Dr Lesley Kay, Deputy Medical Director at HSIB and a Consultant Rheumatologist, has experience of working with prisoners that have long-term conditions: “I have seen first-hand the impact that the lack of medication management can have on patients, particularly when they have long-term conditions. This also places additional pressure on an already stretched NHS and prison service.

“With over 2,400 transfers a month where medication is needed, we recognise how busy prison healthcare staff are and how challenging it is to get medication to the right place at the right time. We know that the system needs to be better and the recommendations we have made are aimed at making the whole process smoother and safer for everyone.”

Sharing information

Evidence from the investigation suggests that one way to reduce the risk is to ensure that the two prison IT systems – one for healthcare and one for all other prisoner details – are sharing information across the prison service.

Dr Eamonn O’Moore, Co-chair of the National Prison Healthcare Board for England and Health and Justice Lead for Public Health England, said: “We welcome this report, particularly as many people in prison have complex health needs often requiring medication. It’s important that when people move between prisons or are released back into the community, there must be careful management of their care to ensure they continue to get their medicines.

“This report highlights where improvements can be made in the communication between health and prison systems to improve patient safety and provides us valuable insights, which will guide the work of partner organisations committed to improving the quality of healthcare in prisons through the National Prison Healthcare Board for England.”

Read the report

For more information, including the safety recommendations in full, download and read the ‘management of chronic health conditions in prisons’ report.