West Midlands prisons lead the way in using tech to improve patient health

June 20th 2019

Prisoners across the West Midlands have been benefiting from a technological health innovation that gives them access to great health support without leaving the prison, the Government announced today.

Care UK’s Prison Healthcare teams have been working with 10 prisons across the West Midlands to implement a six-month pilot for a secure telephone-based medical service. Prison Assist allows GPs to talk to patients in prison via a secure Hub or via secure home working links.

Dr Sarah Bromley, Medical Director, said: “The Prison Assist pilot, in Worcestershire and Staffordshire, has been a resounding success, with both patients and clinicians delighted with the level of access and care that has been achieved. It enables the GP to access prisoners’ full records, including those in prison and from their family GP.

“It has also been an excellent example of what can be achieved by working smarter. We are now looking at ways we can roll it out to benefit prisoners across the country, along with a quality improvement programme looking at the effective use of GP time.

“With the ever-increasing demand for services, the complexity of prisoners’ health issues and the country-wide challenges of recruiting GPs, especially in the fast-moving prison environment, Prison Assist enables us to offer additional care without having to bring extra GPs within the prison walls.”

Generally, prisoners use secure telephone lines in the prison healthcare units to access the service, and an additional project uses the telemedicine equipment to allow a patient in one prison to ‘see’ a doctor in another prison.

Prison Healthcare has been using secure video conferencing equipment located both in the prison’s healthcare wing and in the consultation room at Airedale Hospital in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Consultants are able to carry out ‘virtual’ consultations and talk face-to-face with patients, occasionally carrying out examinations using a close-up, hand-held camera if necessary. Prison Assist not only provides specialist clinical support for patients without them needing to leave prison, but also allows the on-site team to receive prompt advice as and when it is required.

The pilots are an excellent example of the close partnership between health and justice, delivering smarter ways of working, thereby freeing time for both prison and health staff to deliver person-centred, supportive care, as well as improving access to services for the individual.

The six-month Prison Assist clinics have taken place at:

  • HMPYOI Brinsford
  • HMP Dovegate
  • HMPYOI Drake Hall
  • HMP Featherstone
  • HMP Hewell
  • HMP Long Lartin
  • HMP Oakwood
  • HMP Stafford
  • HMPYOI Swinfen Hall
  • HMYOI Werrington