Prisoners’ health is at risk and often underlying problems
which contribute to re-offending are not tackled in jail, according
to the British Medical Association.
A BMA report says that prisoners have special health care needs
with a higher rate of mental illness and substance abuse. Prison
health care often misses the opportunity to tackle these problems
in jail, which can lead to re-offending.
A 1996 study showed that over 60 per cent of unconvicted male
prisoners held on remand were suffering from mental disorder, but
doctors have great difficulty accessing psychiatric nurses,
occupational health workers, substance abuse counsellors and
clinical psychologists, all of whom were needed to deal with the
mental health problems that predominate in many prisons.
According to the BMA report A Crisis Waiting to Break, the
prison service is now losing experienced prison doctors, and nurses
and is failing to attract new recruits due to the poor working
The report has called for a comprehensive needs analysis of the
prison service, greater support for prison health services and more
clinical independence for prison doctors.
Sir David Ramsbotham, chief inspector of prisons, said:
“Concerted and determined action is required to bring prison health
care up to acceptable standards. Prisoners often have multiple
health problems, including addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“By failing to tackle prisoners’ health care needs, we
fall short of the duty of care we owe to them and we miss the
opportunity to contribute to the prevention of reoffending,” he