People Not Prisoners – Addressing Health Inequalities Within The Prison Service

25th May 2018

People Not Prisoners – Addressing Health Inequalities Within The Prison Service

At our recent Membership Event in Crumlin Road Gaol, north Belfast, we presented our Excellence in Co-production award to the winning team – South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust with its People Not Prisoners project. Team leader Barry Rooney explains what the project was all about.

The People Not Prisoners’ project sought to give offenders an effective voice regarding their health and the provision of healthcare. This was facilitated by initiating a service user engagement service. This was the vehicle for prisoners to gain more control over their health and to improve healthcare provision. The most important thing that we needed to recognise as a staff group is that prisoners should be considered as patients to healthcare staff.

The service user engagement service involved a three-strand approach. First was the setting up of healthcare forums with patients in the three prison sites, and two family forums to enable patients and their families to have their experience of healthcare listened to by healthcare professionals and to work together to address the issues raised and to improve the service.

The second strand was the setting up of a patient advocacy service. This was when I would meet patients on a one-to-one basis to address their specific issues regarding their healthcare provision and either mediate, inform or advise on the best course action concerning their issue.

The third strand was to co-design and co-produce with patients and staff a number of initiatives, programmes, workshops and events that would explore and engage the relationship between patients and staff, and also address identified health needs.

The value of this was to provide a space to meet as equals in an informal way as people and not stereotypes. This enabled both staff and patients to see each other in more than just a one-dimensional way. It also encouraged understanding to improve prison culture and dispel prejudice.

The project is ongoing, but already it has seen the green shoots of a different way of doing things in the wider staff and patient population. We have not climbed the mountain, but have recognised that the mountain should be climbed.

I will finish with a quote from a patient that attended a healthcare forum as it sums up the work perfectly: “We know you are behind us and we will all try our best to make things better. We just want to be treated like people.”

Pictured above, from left, are: Maeve Hully, PCC Chief Executive, Barry Rooney, Denise Lyons, Lizzy Sharpe, Stephen Kennedy, member of the judging panel, and Maureen Edmondson, Chair of the PCC Board.

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