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Med Sci Law. 2002 Jul;42(3):245-50.

The National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity among prisoners and the future of prison healthcare.

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  • 1St. Bartholomew's Hospital, William Harvey House, 61 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7BE.


It has long been known that psychiatric disorders are highly prevalent among prisoners (Coid, 1984; Gunn et al., 1991; Maden et al., 1995; Joukamaa, 1995; Bland et al., 1998; Lamb and Weinberger, 1998). However, the Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity Among Prisoners in England and Wales (Singleton et al., 1998) represents a considerable advance on earlier surveys. By using the same standardized psychiatric assessment procedures, and similar questions on medication, service use and social functioning, its findings can be compared with previous national surveys of adults living in private households (Meltzer et al., 1995), residents in institutions (Meltzer et al., 1996), homeless persons (Gill et al., 1996), and with the forthcoming household survey in England, Wales and Scotland. It should also inform the future organisation of healthcare for prisoners, following recent recommendations from a joint Home Office/Department of Health Working Party that Health Authorities must work with prisons in their catchment areas to carry out joint health needs assessments, agree prison healthcare improvement strategies and jointly plan and commission services (HM Prison Service and NHS Executive 1999). The ultimate test of the survey will be whether it provides a benchmark to evaluate the future effectiveness of the new policy changes.

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