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BACKGROUND: The development of primary care services within prisons has been central to improvements in the provision of health care in this setting over the past decade. Despite national imperatives to involve patients in the development of services and numerous policy initiatives, there has been no systematic evaluation of changes in the delivery of primary care and little published evidence of consultation with prisoners. AIM: To explore women prisoners' experiences of primary healthcare provision in prison. DESIGN OF STUDY: Qualitative study using focus groups and interviews. SETTING: Two women's prisons in southern England. METHOD: Six focus groups involving 37 women were conducted, as well as 12 semi-structured individual interviews. Focus groups and interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed thematically. RESULTS: Women prisoners' perceptions of the quality of prison health care were mixed. There were accounts of good-quality care where practitioners were regarded as knowledgeable and respectful, but many perceived that the quality of care was poor. They complained about difficulties accessing care or medication, disrespectful treatment, and breaches of confidentiality by practitioners. They voiced the belief that staff were less qualified and competent than their counterparts in the community. CONCLUSION: The prison environment presents unique challenges to those providing health care, and much work has been done recently on modernizing prison health care and improving professional standards of practice. However, the accounts of women prisoners in this study suggest that there is a gap between patient experience and policy aspirations.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date





630 - 636


Adult, Attitude of Health Personnel, Attitude to Health, Confidentiality, England, Female, Focus Groups, Health Care Rationing, Health Services Accessibility, Humans, Middle Aged, Primary Health Care, Prisoners, Prisons, Professional-Patient Relations, Qualitative Research, Quality of Health Care, Women's Health Services, Young Adult