Prison healthcare

Up-to-date advice in a challenging and complex area

Prison healthcare is a difficult field in which to work. Striving to provide equivalent standards of care in prisons as in the community is a daily challenge for both commissioners and providers.  Integrating the provision of services with a wide range of providers all working in highly regimented secure settings is one of the key challenges for commissioners. The key challenge for staff at the sharp-end is working with a population which typically has multiple and complex healthcare needs, as well as social issues and difficult behaviours. Inevitably, things go wrong sometimes and prisoners may be quick to find fault with the healthcare services they receive.

With our extensive experience of working with commissioners, GPs and mental health trusts, as well as detailed knowledge of the working environment and major health issues encountered in prisons, we can provide practical and timely advice.

We are the lead firm defending the claims against the NHS arising from the use of drug withdrawal regimes in prisons in England from 2004 onwards. We have been managing over 500 claims arising from the treatment of opiate dependent prisoners (known as ODPL No 2). The allegations included ‘systemic’ issues, clinical negligence and alleged breaches of human rights. In addition, we are managing claims brought by individual prisoners making allegations about negligent healthcare.

Another important aspect of our work is providing advice and support for staff involved in a range of investigations, including advocacy and risk management advice. Human rights issues often feature in prison healthcare claims and investigations, and we are at the forefront of developments in case law.

Key services and issues with Prison healthcare

  • Clinical governance
  • Commissioning and procurement of services
  • Coroners’ inquests
  • Drug withdrawal (and other clinical negligence) claims
  • Good record keeping
  • Integration of prison health services
  • Mental health law, practice and procedure
  • Prison Ombudsman’s inquiries
  • Risk management
  • Training.

Our work

  • Advising commissioners on development and negotiation of contracting arrangements for provision of multiple services, including framework agreements combining primary care, community care, pharmacy, dental and ophthalmology services.
  • Advising on issues arising out of prison deaths, including investigations by the PPO and Coroner, complaints and claims, as well as careful examination of the risk management issues to prevent future similar fatalities.
  • Managing claims against and/or implicating NHS bodies and their staff delivering prison healthcare, including managing the Opiate Dependent Prisoners Litigation No2 (ODPL2) group litigation as well as a range of individual claims brought by prisoners concerning their healthcare whilst in prison.
  • Advising healthcare managers and supporting professional staff through all stages up to and including jury inquests, often using our own experienced advocates and avoiding the extra cost to our clients of briefing external barristers.
  • Advising healthcare managers on staffing and disciplinary issues, including both employment law and professional regulation by the statutory professional regulatory bodies (GMCNMCGDCGPCGOC and HPC).
  • Training on good record keeping to support the integration of services, clinical and information governance agendas.
  • Advising commissioners on the running of robust procurement processes to select providers of prison healthcare.
  • Advising providers on negotiation of prison healthcare contracts with commissioners and the Ministry of Justice, including satisfying pension requirements.

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