A new Government IT system will allow GP prison records to be transferred to other GP practices, allowing for better continuity of care for prisoners once they leave prison.
The new Health and Justice Information Service, which is currently being developed, forms part of the a cross-government suicide prevention plan, which aims to reduce death by suicide across the country.
GPs said the update – due between August 2019 and April 2020 – will be ‘absolutely revolutionary’ and could save lives.
The Government said the Health and Justice Information Service will link prison healthcare systems to healthcare systems in the community, and to prison IT systems.
The planning document said: ‘A new Health and Justice Information Service is currently being developed to link prison healthcare systems to healthcare systems in the community, and to prison IT systems.
‘This will enable the sharing of GP-to-GP patient records when offenders leave prison and help to minimise delays in accessing healthcare services. It will also facilitate improved information sharing between discipline and healthcare staff in prisons.’
Dr Ben Jameson, acute GP service clinical director for Livewell Southwest – which provides services for homeless people in Plymouth – welcomed the system, which he thinks will prevent patient deaths.
He said: ‘It’s been so bad for so long and this is going to be absolutely revolutionary. It might improve the delivery of care for people who leave prison and drug-related errors and death.’
Dr Jameson said patients have died as a result of a lack of shared records between prison facilities and GPs in the community, and gave the example of a patient who was able to access medication from multiple GP surgeries after being discharged from prison.
He also explained it will save GP administration time and allow patients to get timely access to appropriate medicines.
Dr Jameson said: ‘People should be discharged with a discharge letter and two weeks worth of medication from the prison but that happens really rarely. Usually what happens is someone would come to see you and say “I need my medication” and you would have to find out which prison they were in and call the prison.
‘Quite often the prison would want a written confirmation from the patient to share information and that means they wouldn’t get that medication on that day.’