Updated: Monday, 24th September 2018 @ 5:48am

Prisons urged to improve medical care for elderly convicts as 85% suffer poor health conditions due to isolation

Prisons urged to improve medical care for elderly convicts as 85% suffer poor health conditions due to isolation

By Ella Murphy

Prisons are being urged to deliver essential health and social care for the growing population of elderly prisoners following research by The University of Manchester.

The National Institute for Health Research Journals Library highlighted that jailbirds are failing to receive sufficient care due to lack of integration between health and social care services.

A whopping 44% of prisons do not have a policy on the care and management of older prisoners with previous studies concluding that around 85% of older convicts have experienced one or more major illness and that their risk of developing mental health difficulties is greater due to isolation and lack of social support.

The most frequently reported health conditions were cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, back problems, respiratory diseases and depression.

Professor Jenny Shaw, from the Offender Health Research Network based at the Institute of Brain Behaviour and Mental Health at The University of Manchester, said: “Specialised assessments were required for older patients because they have more complex health and social care needs than their younger counterparts and those of a similar age living in the community.

“Older prisoners have on average almost three unmet health and social care needs on entry to prison and the most frequent unmet need was in relation to knowing where to get information about their care. We are now calling for a series of improvements to be made.”

Awareness was also brought to the recurrent issue of not planning an elder prisoner’s release, meaning they faced inadequate health and social care once released into the community.

Furthermore, the Department of Health’s recommendation to provide older prisoners with a specific health and social care assessment upon arrival at prison was generally neglected.

Positive improvements had been made including that the number of prisons assigning a member of staff to act as an Older Prisoner Lead had increased in recent years but not all these staff appeared to be fully active in their roles.

The research focused on serving male prisoners aged over 60 at all prisons in England and Wales.

Proposed solutions consist of having older prisoners accommodation near to where they will reside once released and a detailed health and social care entrance assessment for all older prisoners to be analysed during their sentence.

Professor Shaw said: “There seems to be ambiguity regarding the responsibility for older prisoners' social care.

"We also found that the geographical organisation of social services can result in the responsible social service being located a considerable distance from where prisoners are being held. In such instances, local social services do not co-ordinate their care.”

A number of prisons in England will pilot guidelines to methodically address health needs during a prisoner’s sentence.

Picture courtesy of Daniel ............ via Flickr, with thanks.

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