In Uganda, and in many countries around the world, prisoners are dying from diseases such as HIV and AIDS, cancer, malaria and typhoid. They die alone, without their family and without any proper medical or social care. But thanks to a growing partnership between the African Prisons Project (APP) and Fair Havens Hospice in Essex, all that is slowly changing.
For the past five years, Fair Havens Hospice in Westcliff-on-Sea has been working with the APP to bring elements of palliative care to prisoners in Uganda, helping them to think about the individual person and what they can do with their limited resources to ensure patients are dying in as comfortable a condition as possible.
Head of Patient Services at Fair Havens, Catherine Wood, is leading the project and in November last year welcomed a group of Ugandan prison guards to the hospice as part of a three month secondment to the UK for training. They were given a tour of the facilities, met a patient and saw first-hand how elements of care can apply in the prisons they work in.
Catherine explained: “We want to help apply the concept of palliative care in prisons. All those who visited have a responsibility out there as many of the prisoners they meet have illnesses which will shorten their life and they have no idea how to care for them.
“Very occasionally Hospice Africa would go in and provide pain relief, but there are things that they can do themselves now. A lot of the skills needed to provide quality end of life care are transferable to Uganda. For example communication; it costs nothing and sometimes just knowing what to say at the right time is what’s needed, it can also diffuse angry situations by simply listening or providing eye contact with someone. These are simple ways of helping somebody, communication is key to a lot of things in palliative care.
“When I first visited Uganda in 2010 I met with Hospice Africa and it’s a completely different type of service that they offer but there are lots of similarities with pain and symptom control, though it’s not as advanced as in the UK. It is much harder to get medication in Uganda, you have to think innovatively and outside the box which makes it very exciting for me to work out there. Here, everything you need to provide the care we do is at our fingertips in terms or medication and services.
“This was the first time we have had a visit from the APP and Ugandan prison guards. The visit went really well and they were really moved by the work we do here and could see how they could apply principles of the care we offer here to prisoners. It is a very new concept to them but they were very engaged.”