End of life care and prisons

Categories: Education.

On 24 February 2014 St Wilfrid’s Hospice held a one-day conference day in West Sussex entitled “End of life care and prisons”.

This conference was part of a series developed to address the needs of sections of the population who do not have equal access to end of life care and services – namely the homeless, those with learning disabilities and those detained in prisons.

We had approximately 40 attendees at our prisons and end of life care day, which comprised of members of prisons custodial staff, healthcare teams from prisons and community and hospice healthcare personnel. Some of the candidates and the speakers travelled from a distance to attend – for example from Newcastle, Wolverhampton and Wakefield. This suggests there is both a scarcity of conferences/educational events addressing this topic but also a demand for them to be held.

The day focussed on the both the challenges and possible strategies to delivering good end of life care to prisoners.

Two of the speakers from the north east, Gill Scott and Jackie Hall, spoke with honest enthusiasm about the progress they had made in their local prison population including the development and promotion of Macmillan Applied Prison Standards.

We also had contributions from clinical nurse specialists; one who had visited several patients in an open prison and the other who supported a prisoner in a high security prison who was given an early release on compassionate medical grounds.

‘Hope and dignity’

We heard from a consultant in palliative medicine who spoke of his substantial experience of ‘in-reach’ into prisons and of the hope and dignity which can flourish in unexpected places. He reminded the audience that he knows very little about any criminal history of his non-prison patients might have and reinforced our ethical duty as professionals to provide compassionate care to every human being.

A lead nurse from a local open prison reminded us that many prisoners have chronic healthcare needs and of the challenges with controlling and coping with illicit drug and alcohol use.

The day finished with an account from a prison chaplain and this was presented as a case history/narrative. This was probably one of the most moving, emotive and sad accounts I have ever heard; it was the story of a prisoner dying in his 30s, who finally and perhaps unexpectedly was reconciled to his family at the very end of his life.

Overall the evaluations were of a very good standard and although we have no plans to co-ordinate a further day in the near future (despite requests from the attendees), we would happily share our programme and experience with others interested in coordinating such an event. The networking which went on during the day should potentially continue to improve confidence and competence in delivering end of life care to the prison population.

For further information about the event, contact: education@stwh.co.uk

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