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Telerecovery to improve continuity of care for people in prison
HMPPS is rolling out telerecovery to all prisons to improve continuity of care for released substance users.

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Telerecovery

Probably the only positive side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic in prisons was the way it kick-started digital services within the secure estate. After years of dithering, online family visits were up and running within a matter of weeks from the first lockdown in dozens of prisons. The pandemic also kickstarted telemedicine in our prisons

Bringing care ‘on-site’ at the prison through telemedicine services helped to tackle many of the problems of accessing healthcare while in prison – long waits for community appointments, frequent cancellations, lack of confidentiality and the general stigma of going to hospital in handcuffs.

Video appointments can mitigate most of these issues, allowing patients to know their appointment date, removing the long wait associated with escorted transfers, ensure appropriate handover of clinical information and removing the need for prison officers to be privy to confidential medical information. 

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service is currently rolling out technology to support people engaging in treatment for drug and alcohol use inside. Critically, it will also help support continuity of care on release.

This is not the first attempt to support substance misuse recovery and treatment in prisons via technology but it is the most comprehensive to date. The work is already underway in every prison with an additional 650 new devices due to roll out to the healthcare departments in every prison in England and Wales by March 2024, bringing the total of telerecovery computers  to over one thousand.

Every device will include SystmOne, the main Electronic Health Record used by primary care across the NHS, and Visionable – a secure video tool which provides clinical platform for healthcare professionals and patients, and provides integrated access with medical records, diagnostics and imaging.

Visionable allows people in treatment in prison to talk to prescribers and recovery support workers at community treatment services to engage fully and ensure continuity of care on release. Currently, only an average of about four in ten people who participate in drug and alcohol treatment in prison, engage with community services on release.

Additionally, Visionable is already being used in prisons to make community mutual aids groups (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous & Gamblers Anonymous) available to people in prison. You can see a video explaining the Prison version of Visionable below.

In addition, a smaller number of prisons are piloting Breaking Free Online – the  evidence-based digital treatment and recovery programme and The Do-It Profiler – online screening for learning difficulties and disability traits which also provides assessment tools and resources relating to literacy, numeracy, wellbeing and training for work skills.

Conclusion

The HMPPS team in charge of the telerecovery roll-out acknowledge that there are still challenges to overcome, particularly Internet connectivity at some of our older prisons. However, they are confident of finding solutions and have already learnt from previous initiatives to ensure that machines are usable by everyone at an establishment. Previous devices were typically registered to an individual worker and sometimes became unworkable if that individual left without passing on the secure key and/or password.
 
Improving continuity of care for drug and alcohol users leaving prison was one of the key targets in the 2021 Drug Strategy. Telerecovery may turn out to be one of the most important resources to deliver on this goal.

Thanks to Visionable Ltd for permission to use the header image.

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