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End of life care at HMP Dartmoor wins place in finals for patient safety award

June 3 2019

A Devon healthcare team, who have created dignified and compassionate end of life care for prisoners at HMP Dartmoor, have reached the finals of a prestigious award for protecting patient safety.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) Patient Safety Awards, among the most prestigious in healthcare, recognise the hard work and dedication of teams across the country to patients’ care and safety.

Care UK’s healthcare team and the prison, working in partnership with St Luke’s and MacMillan Cancer Support in Plymouth, have won a place in the finals for the End of Life Care award.

Specialist nurses come in to the prison regularly to review the care for prisoners nearing the end of their lives. These prisoners would usually have to be escorted to a hospital outside the prison or be transferred away from the prison for such care, which would not only cost taxpayers thousands of pounds but would also reduce access to the right care.

The healthcare team now have a complex care lead nurse, whose role includes working with colleagues throughout the prison, and specialist nurses to make the necessary arrangements for a dying prisoner. For instance, a prisoner may need care at night, when most are locked up, or their diet may need to be changed as their health deteriorates. The new role means that there is a single point of contact for all such issues.

The healthcare team works with the specialists and the prison’s senior management, as well as the national Prison and Probation Service, on the initiative. The complex lead nurse has set up a Living with Cancer Group to provide education, information and support to patients with guest speakers covering a variety of topics. One patient reported: “The living with cancer support group has made each and every one of us feel less alone.” The group has also established links with the Marie Curie charity.

Sarah Bromley, medical director for Health in Justice, Care UK’s prisons healthcare arm, said: “I am really delighted to see that these awards have recognised the great work that our teams do and have given us the opportunity to demonstrate Care UK’s commitment to patient safety and continuous quality improvement in the toughest of environments.

“Our teams in prisons are dedicated, committed to their patients and demonstrate resilience in their daily roles, having to deal with some very challenging and, at times, traumatic incidents. Their care is regularly scrutinised by multiple external agencies and this demonstrates their willingness to be open, to learn and to continuously improve the care they provide.” 

The initiative has already been recognised in the Burdett Nursing Awards in 2018, where it was chosen as the overall winner as well as winning the Delivering Dignity award.