The quality of prison primary care: cross-sectional cluster-level analyses of prison healthcare data in the North of England

Elsevier, eClinicalMedicine, Volume 63, September 2023
McLintock K., Foy R., Canvin K., Bellass S., Hearty P., Wright N. et al.

Background: Prisoners have significant health needs, are relatively high users of healthcare, and often die prematurely. Strong primary care systems are associated with better population health outcomes. We investigated the quality of primary care delivered to prisoners. Methods: We assessed achievement against 30 quality indicators spanning different domains of care in 13 prisons in the North of England. We conducted repeated cross-sectional analyses of routinely recorded data from electronic health records over 2017–20. Multi-level mixed effects logistic regression models explored associations between indicator achievement and prison and prisoner characteristics. Findings: Achievement varied markedly between indicators, prisons and over time. Achieved processes of care ranged from 1% for annual epilepsy reviews to 94% for blood pressure checks in diabetes. Intermediate outcomes of care ranged from only 0.2% of people with epilepsy being seizure-free in the preceding year to 34% with diabetes having sufficient blood pressure control. Achievement improved over three years for 11 indicators and worsened for six, including declining antipsychotic monitoring and rising opioid prescribing. Achievement varied between prisons, e.g., 1.93-fold for gabapentinoid prescribing without coded neuropathic pain (odds ratio [OR] range 0.67–1.29) and 169-fold for dried blood spot testing (OR range 0.05–8.45). Shorter lengths of stay were frequently associated with lower achievement. Ethnicity was associated with some indicators achievement, although the associations differed (both positive and negative) with indicators. Interpretation: We found substantial scope for improvement and marked variations in quality, which were largely unaltered after adjustment for prison and prisoner characteristics. Funding: National Institute for Health and Care Research Health and Social Care and Delivery Research Programme: 17/05/26.