Request for GP feedback to inform prison healthcare

Morgan Liotta

30/03/2022 3:38:13 PM

Member feedback and a pilot program will guide the RACGP’s next edition of the Prison Standards, which aims to ensure best practice care.

Inside a prison
In addition to a frontline role of providing healthcare, GPs can be trusted advocates for their patients in prison.

Healthcare provided in the prison system is a unique and challenging environment, given that inmates make up some of Australia’s most vulnerable population groups and often face complex and long-term health and wellbeing issues.
Consequently, ongoing access to care for people in prison is critical to improving their health and wellbeing, as well as helping them transition back into the community post-release.
Within the custodial setting, GPs’ role in delivering care can also be as advocates for this vulnerable population in the wider healthcare system.
The RACGP Standards for health services in Australian prisons (Prison Standards) are designed to support GPs and other healthcare providers working in the prison system to achieve better health outcomes for these patients. 
With development of the second edition of the Prison Standards currently underway, the RACGP is seeking member and stakeholder feedback on the draft until 29 April. 
Prison Standards Working Group Chair, Dr Tim Senior, told newsGP that GPs’ input in developing the new edition will help widen recognition of their invaluable place in the prison system.
‘GPs are the medical specialists of primary care, and, as a profession, work across multiple diverse primary care settings,’ Dr Senior said.
‘Many GPs work within the justice sector, either full time or as part of their other GP roles.
‘Often the problems and circumstances encountered and managed in prison settings are the bread and butter of what GPs do – from managing injuries and acute illness, to managing complex mental health problems, alcohol and other drugs, to preventive healthcare – all while developing trust and rapport with people who may not be comfortable in many health services.’
Acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over-represented in the prison system, and that deaths in custody of this population are still occurring regularly, Dr Senior said GPs’ advocacy position cannot be undervalued.
‘GPs are at the front line of providing care, as well as advocacy, in all the circumstances, and so will be crucial to delivering care of the highest quality, as ensured by the Prison Standards,’ he said.
The current draft Prison Standards incorporates feedback the college received throughout previous consultation with members and stakeholders, aligning with a pilot in prison health services.
GP feedback, along with the outcomes of the pilot, will inform the next draft and ensure the Prison Standards are meaningful for the healthcare profession. In addition to this feedback, the update will be informed by current national and international evidence and comparable national and international standards. 
The Prison Standards are jointly developed by the RACGP Working Group – Standards for health services in Australian prisons and the RACGP Expert Committee – Standards for General Practices.
Released in 2011, the first edition Prison Standards are ‘very much due’ for an update, according to Dr Senior, and will better align with the Standards for general practices.
‘The RACGP Standards are now in their fifth edition and are based around the outcomes that need to be achieved, rather than dictating the processes to achieve them,’ he said.
‘The Standards are a modular structure, which should mean the updated Prison Standards are more closely aligned with the general practice standards, but relevant to the unique environment of health services in prisons and similar environments.
‘We hope this will make it easier for services and accreditors to understand and implement the new Prison Standards.’
More information and the draft Prisons Standards can be found on the RACGP consultations page, which closes 29 April.
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