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Prison health needs assessment set to be published

By Niamh Quinlan - 08th Jan 2023

prison health

A comprehensive health needs assessment for Irish prisons is expected to be published in the near future, this newspaper can reveal.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) in December, Executive Clinical Lead of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) Dr John Devlin said the health needs assessment was finalised and with the Department of Justice and the Department of Health “for consideration” ahead of publication.

Work on the assessment began in early 2020; however, progress was impacted due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Dr Devlin said travel and social distancing restrictions meant that the assessment process needed to be “totally” revised, as visits to prisons were reduced.

“We had to supplement that work by emails, follow-ups, multiple video calls, and all the rest of it, which took a lot longer actually, because it meant that you were to-ing and fro-ing trying to get the information and then following up on [it].”

There were also incidences where resources for the health needs assessment had to be reduced to prioritise management of outbreaks of Covid-19 in prisons. “Appropriately so,” Dr Devlin added.

“It did take longer than expected. But at the end of the day… the work is done, it’s finalised, [and] it is a very comprehensive piece of work. [The health needs assessment] will be providing a roadmap or a framework and how we look at and deliver and plan for healthcare within the prison estate over the next decade.”

The assessment will consist of 12 individual prison reports and one national report. The national report “looks at the organisation in its entirety” and has 60 recommendations regarding healthcare in the IPS, Dr Devlin told MI.

The recommendations can be broken down into “two main areas”. The first relates to strengthening prison healthcare services including mental health, addiction services, and women’s healthcare; and secondly, enhancing and improving governance within prison health service.

The full interview with Dr Devlin will be published in an upcoming issue of MI.

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