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Prisoners (Medical Care)

Volume 181: debated on Friday 23 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the normal arrangements for providing medical care for prisoners who are seriously ill; and under what circumstances treatment is normally arranged outside prison.

The medical officer of a prison is statutorily responsible for the health care of its prisoners and has clinical discretion to make whatever arrangements are deemed appropriate to meet the health needs of those who become ill. In general the medical officer will arrange for treatment to be received outside when the treatment required is such that it cannot be provided by a prison service hospital or medical centre.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what form of transport is normally used to convey a prisoner when medical treatment is thought to be necessary outside a prison; and what security arrangements are made.

Such matters are determined at the time according to the circumstances of the particular case, including the security classification of the prisoner.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners in the last 12 months have been permitted to receive medical care outside prison; and what are the criteria for deciding if private medical care is appropriate in a particular case.

In the 12 months ended 31 March 1990 prisoners attended out-patient departments of NHS hospitals on 18,740 occasions. During the same period there were 1,988 temporary removals of prisoners to NHS hospitals for in-patient observation or treatment. The number of prisoners involved is not recorded. More recent information is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.Instances of prisoners being allowed to receive private medical treatment outside prison are not statistically recorded. A prisoner may receive in-patient treatment privately only in exceptional circumstances. The medical officer must be satisfied that the treatment should be carried out during the period in which the prisoner is likely to be in custody; that it cannot be provided in a prison service hospital; and that either the prisoner should be treated significantly earlier privately than under NHS arrangements or the prisoner had received an appointment for private in-patient treatment before coming into prison. Prisoners are not normally allowed to receive out-patient treatment on a private basis, but individual cases are considered on their merits.