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Use of health services by prison inmates: comparisons with the community
  1. T Marshall,
  2. S Simpson,
  3. A Stevens
  1. Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
  1. Dr Marshall (T.P.Marshall{at}

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The future organisation of prison health care 1 recommends that the NHS and the Prison Service work together to plan and provide health care services for prisoners. Whereas previously the Prison Service had this responsibility alone. The NHS will therefore have to take stock of the current level at which prison health care is demanded and provided. A key part of the information base for joint planning therefore includes data on current service utilisation. This paper compares primary care and inpatient health service utilisation data for UK prisoners with health services utilisation data for equivalent community populations.

In the community, primary care is provided principally by general practitioners and professions allied to medicine (mostly nurses). Residents in the community have access to the full range of NHS outpatient and inpatient facilities. Within prisons, primary care is provided by medical officers (some of whom are general practitioners), nursing grades and health care officers (who have received some training in health care). Some prisons have their own inpatient facilities (health care centre beds). These provide a low level of inpatient care and do not have a direct equivalent in the community. Prisoners also have access to NHS outpatient and inpatient facilities and to visiting specialists.


The prison population has a high turnover and varies from day to day. Because of this, the prison population is expressed as an average daily population during a one year period. …

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.