Report recommends prison service keeps responsibility for healthcare

Report recommends prison service keeps responsibility for healthcare

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) should continue to have responsibility for prison healthcare services, a report has recommended.

Justice minister Simon Harris and health minister Stephen Donnelly today published the first comprehensive health assessment undertaken for the Irish Prison Service.

The report, produced by independent consultants Crowe Ireland, was submitted to government in early 2022. Its main recommendation is that responsibility for prison healthcare services should remain with the IPS.

It also recommends the development of formal pathways between the IPS and the wider health system, including the Department of Health and HSE, to enable the culture and recognition of the role of prisons within the health system and to address professional and service isolation.

Mr Harris said: “This is a really valuable report setting out 60 recommendations for the best development of healthcare services in the Irish Prison Service.

“The wide-ranging recommendations address general healthcare provision, women’s healthcare, mental health services, addiction and substance misuse services. A number of recommendations relate to the governance and resourcing of healthcare provision in the Prison Service.

“The report also includes a draft implementation plan which has been developed to take forward the majority of recommendations. The Irish Prison Service will lead on implementation, with much of the work taking place over the next three years.

“We are not starting from scratch. This will complement the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the interaction of persons with mental health and addiction challenges in the justice sector which was published in September 2022, while we have rolled out gynaecological services to females in Limerick Prison.

“The aim here is to ensure the right services and treatments are available to support people in custody and support their rehabilitation away from lives of crime.”

Mr Donnelly said: “This report reflects the positive cooperation between the Department of Health, and the Department of Justice relating to the provision of healthcare for prisoners. The report highlights the need to support and grow this cooperation, particularly between the care delivered in prisons and the national health service.

“The Department of Health is committed to working with the Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service to support this recommendation. I believe that implementation of the actions will contribute to increasing equity to access to quality care in Ireland, in line with the commitments of Sláintecare.”

Hildegaarde Naughton, minister of state at the Department of Health, added: “The National Drugs Strategy prioritises the provision of integrated care pathways for prisoners who are identified as high-risk drug users. I therefore welcome the recommendations in the report to improve drug and alcohol services provided by the Irish Prison Service, covering addiction counselling, specialist addiction nursing resources and dual diagnosis services.

“My Department will support the close engagement between the IPS, the HSE and other stakeholders to ensure that drug and alcohol services are better integrated between prison and community, so that people leaving prison can access treatment in the community without interruption.”

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