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Impact of a newly opened prison on an accident and emergency department
  1. S H Boyce1,
  2. J Stevenson1,
  3. I S Jamieson2,
  4. S Campbell3
  1. 1Accident and Emergency Department, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, Scotland
  2. 2HMP Kilmarnock, Scotland
  3. 3Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Boyce, 176 Troon Avenue, Greenhills, East Kilbride G75 8TJ, Scotland;


Objective: To determine the impact of a newly opened prison on an accident and emergency (A&E) department.

Method: A new category B prison opened in April 1999, the first privately run prison in Scotland and the third largest in population. All prisoners referred to the A&E department for treatment were identified prospectively during the first year after the opening of the prison.

Results: 99 prisoners and four members of staff attended during the one year period. Ages ranged from 18–64 years with a mean age of 29.8 years. Presentations were as a result of deliberate self harm (22%), injury after violence (18%), sports injury (15%), surgical condition (15%), medical illness (13%), accidental injury (9%), ENT problem (2%), and miscellaneous (6%). Thirty seven prisoners (35.6%) were admitted to the hospital. Further review at outpatient clinics was arranged for 15 prisoners. One prisoner died, the result of suicide by hanging. The remaining prisoners were returned to the prison for further management by the prison medical and nursing team. Twelve prisoners re-attended a total of 37 times, ranging from twice to a maximum of eight visits. Some 42.3% of attendances were during “working hours” (09.00–17.00) and 57.7% attended “out of hours” (17.00–09.00). Twenty four referrals (23.1%) were deemed inappropriate by the prison medical team on retrospective review. Sixteen of these occurred “out of hours”. Forty one prisoners (39.4%) were known to have a history of injecting drug misuse. Including re-attenders, 59 presentations (56.7%) to the A&E department had a history of injecting drug misuse. Of these 41 prisoners, 11 (26.8%) were hepatitis C positive, with eight of these having a positive polymerase chain reaction test. No prisoners had HIV and only one prisoner was hepatitis B positive.

Conclusion: The opening of the prison resulted in only a slight increase in the workload of the A&E department. A significant proportion of prisoners were admitted to the hospital highlighting the practical and logistical problems of managing people restrained and in custody. Most cases can be safely referred back to the prison. Increased input is required from the prison medical team when dealing with deliberate self harm, frequent attenders, and “out of hours” referrals. All A&E staff must be aware of the increased risk of hepatitis C infection when dealing with a confined prison population.

  • prison
  • prisoners
  • hepatitis C

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  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.