"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it"
Aneurin Bevan

Thursday, 10 February 2011


While everyone is talking about prisoners it is pertinent to mention that prisoners need healthcare (and here's me being a bit controversial) probably more than they need votes. (Those of you arguing that voting is a human right should first acknowledge that healthcare is a more important human right.)

The following is from the Northern Echo:

[Care UK] has been awarded a £53m NHS prison health contract. The contract, awarded by the North-East Offender Health Commissioning Unit, has been awarded to Care UK rather than current NHS providers.
If the primary care in a PCT was replaced with a private provider* then there would be an outcry, but don't forget, these are prisoners here, so they don't count.

Actually, if there is a master plan to privatise the NHS, prisons would be the best place to try it out first, because few people pay any attention to how prisoners are treated.

* Yeah pedants like to say that GPs are "private contractors", but note that GPs have NHS pensions, NHS training and they have a single UK-wide (even though health is devolved) NHS contract. Private companies do not have those. GPs are part of the NHS.


  1. A friend (GP) who was had done locum prison work persuaded her new GP partners to bid for a prison contract, but the contract as specified made it impossible to provide the existing level of service she knew the prisoners' required. It was only possible to provide cheap enough care by cutting costs below that which she believed was safe, so they withdrew from their offer. I've been a GP columnist for the Inside Time (national prisoner's newspaper) for a few years and it's clear that there is a huge degree of unmet medical need (particularly psychological) in prison. Health care ought to be distributed according to need, which means that prisoner health should be a priority.

  2. You're absolutely right, access to healthcare should only be about need.

    The article I linked to also says:

    the NHS provider “was judged better than the successful bidder on quality, delivery and risk.” He adds that price was “the only element the successful bidder beat us on”.

    This is the big scandal: the contract was awarded on price only, and because it was for prisoner care the other criteria (which would have been the most important for commissioning healthcare for the rest of us) were ignored.

  3. The key question Richard is this: If prisoners had the vote, would our politicians be better at responding to prisoners needs?

    Of course, that doesn't change the fact that prisoner healthcare is a scandal. Even more so for Asylum-seekers.


  4. It is said that most prisoners would vote conservative:


  5. It's an interesting question. There are about 84k prisoners which is the size of a largish constituency, but of course, they are spread between 140 or so prisons. It may be interesting to see which constituencies these prisons are in, and how many extra voters they would add.

    A very inaccurate average figure gives about 600 extra people per constituency (assuming no more than one prison per constituency). Looking at the actual capacity of prisons, the largest is 1500.

    There are 70 UK constituencies with majorities less than 1500, and 33 UK constituencies with majorities less than 600.

    Would prisoner votes be significant in a general election? I doubt it, although without finding out how many prisons are in marginals I cannot tell for sure.

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