Working inside: What it's like to be a GP in Prison.
You might have noticed that Network Locum (now Lantum).com has recently been advertising jobs within Prison healthcare. We spoke to Lee, a GP who works in a category B men’s prison in London, about what working for Her Majesty’s Prison service entails.
"Typically, I usually work in the wing clinic. Each wing has its own and it’s similar to a normal clinic in that you have a certain number of patients per session, and that number can vary. The demographic is usually quite young, and as prisoners tend to have little contact with healthcare, you see a diverse number of cases. There is a high-turnover, but you’ll also see sentenced patients regularly, so there is an opportunity to provide continuity of care and see things through.
One of the main differences between this and regular GP work is that when you’re in session, you’re supported by a full healthcare team on site, which is staffed by nurses, HCA’s, band 8 matrons, management staff and a GP Lead . What’s more, the nurses who work on the wards know the patients well and are able to give you information and keep an eye on them as they progress.
It’s a varied role, from the clinic in the morning to being on duty in the afternoon. You have time to troubleshoot and catch up with admin. You’ll be on call, responding to acute emergencies, and you may only see two or three patients in a session, so you also have the time to go through medical histories and issues that need sorting.
The other responsibility could be being a reception doctor, meaning you’re dealing with all the new patients who, as they come through are all medically checked, screened and you can identify any mental health issues in this time.
In terms of experience, you don’t need specific experience in prisons, but you should be aware of the environment you’re enterprising. Popular culture would have us believe all sorts of things about prison health care, but in reality, it’s a very controlled environment. Patients may be demanding, it’s in their nature, but I have never felt uncomfortable in a session. There are safeguards in place, alarms and prison officers, who ensure your safety and as there is a healthcare team, you’re not alone. Most prisons will give locum inductions, and perhaps come in the day before your shift to see how it works and if it suits you.
I would say it’s no different to usual locum work, but you have that extra support. You still need to do the same checks you normally do, for instance most prisons will use System One, and so make sure you’re up to date with that. (See Dr Ishani Patel’s blog on Preparation here.)
Because of the flexibility and variation, I would suggest working in prisons to all locums looking for a fresh challenge in a less pressured environment than your average GP surgery."
Click here for more information on the opportunities we have in prison healthcare.