Innovation in prison healthcare

At Spectrum, we champion healthcare improvements across all our services. Our dedicated prison healthcare teams are passionate about helping patients, developing innovative solutions which promote lasting, positive health and wellbeing. Our teams have won numerous awards for innovative practice.

Patient healthcare ambassadors, HMP & YOI Deerbolt

With a growing body of evidence suggesting that peer led programmes are more effective at reaching patients requiring treatment in criminal justice settings, Spectrum began breakthrough work to train prison patients as healthcare ambassadors.

Our peer mentor training is based on the National Care Certificate, a robust induction programme for support workers in health and social care settings, as well as specialist course content covering substance misuse, mental health, recovery and long-term conditions. The programme was piloted at HMP & YOI Deerbolt, then rolled out across our 7 North East prisons.

For peer mentors such as Callum, the opportunity to undertake recognised training and help his fellow prisoners has given him renewed optimism for life after prison.

“Since I became a peer mentor, I’ve gained confidence and knowledge and I’ve started to grow as a person. When I was given the chance to do this, I took it with open arms because I’ve always wanted to support others and gain some sort of benefit for myself.”

The programme is being prepared for CPD accreditation, which means that all those who complete the course will leave prison with accredited qualifications under their belt.

The healthcare team at HMP & YOI Deerbolt scooped a prestigious Our Health Heroes Award for the best healthcare initiative in a community or criminal justice setting, with judges commending our transformational impact on prisoners’ lives.

Onsite Haemodialysis, HMP Preston

Back in 2019, healthcare staff at HMP Preston developed a haemodialysis project which enabled onsite treatment to be offered to patients for the first time.

This project was developed when a Spectrum nurse, Lyndsey, realised there were no onsite dialysis facilities available for patients. Prison officers were collectively spending over 50 hours per week, per prisoner, escorting dialysis patients to hospital appointments – an estimated cost of around £2,000 per month in working hours.

Lyndsey instigated discussions with the Head of Healthcare and the prison governor, outlining her vision for how the project would work, benefits for patients and for the prison.

After being allocated a room to use as a dialysis suite, Lyndsey sourced haemodialysis machines and began a training programme for healthcare staff.

The project went on to win the managing long term conditions category at the Nursing Times Awards, with Lyndsey also claiming the Rising Star award.

Cervical screening increase, HMP & YOI Styal

In April 2020, Styal’s cervical screening uptake rate was 63%. Out in the community, around 70% of women attend screening nationally, despite it being the most effective way to identify and prevent cervical cancer. This number is far lower amongst female prisoners, due to past traumas and/or sexual violence; some have never attended a screening before, or are overdue one by up to 20 years. Thus, the Butterfly Project was introduced to try and increase smear test attendance.

To address these challenges, the project aimed:

  • To change the fear culture surrounding screening
  • To boost uptake to at least 90% of all eligible patients
  • To improve existing processes at Styal so that screening is prioritised

Women reluctant to be tested are able to share their concerns in one-to-one sessions with healthcare staff (and even peer mentors) where they can be shown the equipment used. Cervical screening is also explained in their healthcare induction, upon arrival at Styal.

In terms of health outcomes, the evidence is clear that The Butterfly Project is a benefit to Styal’s patients and is making real and positive changes in cervical screening uptake. As a result of the project commencing, from April 2020 to April 2022 there were:

  • 233 cervical screenings performed at the prison
  • 9% of 25 – 49-year-olds had screening (201/221)
  • 8% in the 50 – 64-year age group had screening (26/28)

At the start of 2024, the screening rate for 25-49 year olds decreased slightly to 86.6%, but for the 50-64 year old age group the rate increased to an impressive 94.7% – with no women on the smear test waiting list and all women who are eligible booked into clinic for an appointment up to the end of April 2024.

The Butterfly Project aims to keep on challenging the culture of fear surrounding cervical screening, boosting screening uptake to at least 90% for all eligible patients, and improving existing processes at Styal so that screening is prioritised.

Transforming healthcare at HMP Liverpool

As a leading prison healthcare provider, Spectrum was approached by commissioners to deliver a transformation programme at HMP Liverpool, after a report identified systematic failings in healthcare and leadership throughout the prison.

Under the banner of Better Health Liverpool, Spectrum worked with the existing multi-agency nursing team to address imminent risks and overhaul the service strategically, operationally, and clinically. Staff engagement, patient engagement strategies, and workforce development plans were implemented, alongside an improved quality and performance infrastructure with additional training analysis.

The outcome was such that the nursing team was awarded silver medals from the prestigious Chief Nursing Officer for their outstanding work. The award is an enormous accomplishment for Spectrum and the nursing team, acknowledging the passion, commitment and transformational work we are now nationally acclaimed for.

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England, said: “I was delighted to visit HMP Liverpool and to present the Primary Care Nursing Team with a CNO Award in recognition of their outstanding work and commitment. They are an inspirational team, and it was a pleasure to meet them and personally thank them for their work.”