Delivering primary care in prison: the need to improve health information

Sudy Anaraki, Emma Plugge, Alison Hill


Background Electronic patient records and access to electronic information resources are the cornerstones of delivery of modern primary care, and they will be necessary to deliver effective evidence-based patient care, provide needs-driven health care, assist research and improve quality of services. However, prison health needs assessments carried out in the South East region suggested that modern information technology was lacking in prison primary care. This is despite the fact that the principle of 'equivalence of care' has been guiding the recent prison healthcare reforms in response to concerns about quality of prison healthcare services.
Methods We visited all four male adult prisons in the Thames Valley area and conducted one-to-one semi-structured interviews with healthcare staff to investigate the information available to them, the quality and uses of the data, and their current information systems. We also ran a workshop with prison healthcare managers and other healthcare staff from prisons in the Thames Valley area.
Results Primary care staff in prisons record almost all clinical data on paper and do not have access to electronic clinical records nor to the internet. The main perceived barriers to implementing health information technology in prisons were concerns about potential breaches of security and discipline in prisons, anxiety about data security and a culture that gives low priority to health in prisons.
Conclusions To provide 'equivalence of care' for prisoners, primary care trusts need to implement full electronic clinical records in prisons and ensure staff have access to resources on the internet.


health information technology; inequalities; prisons

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