‘Implicit threat’ to prison health staff (UTV)

The South Eastern Trust has said it is “appalled” by a statement from republican prisoners which it says could be perceived as an implicit threat to its healthcare staff.

The statement on the Republican Network for Unity website, claimed that “sinister measures being taken by the jail administration” which meant republican prisoners are being deprived of adequate healthcare.

Issued on behalf of republicans held at Maghaberry, it claimed: “Appointments and consultations often involve weeks and months of waiting and the quality of advice and treatment is regularly substandard.”

Prisoners being taken to and from hospital are subjected to forced strip searches despite being handcuffed to prison guards the entire time, the statement alleges.

They claimed that unless the situation was resolved, prisoners’ health and wellbeing would deteriorate “to a point where lives are endangered”.

It concludes that “those with responsibility for healthcare, staff and the treatment of prisoners would do well to take note”.

They claimed that complaints had been made but legal action was also being considered.

A spokesperson for the South Eastern HSC Trust, which is responsible for providing healthcare for prisoners, denied any “sinister relationship” between its staff and the NI Prison Service.

They added health and social care staff have been “neutral and provided care and treatment to those in need regardless of circumstance” throughout the Troubles and today.

“Prior to 2008, healthcare within the prisons had been provided by NI Prison Service,” a statement said.

“Following a three-year phased handover to healthcare staff, the healthcare delivered in prisons is now on exactly the same basis as that delivered to the wider community in Northern Ireland.

“The SE Trust employs General Practitioners, nurses, psychiatrists, dentists, occupational therapists, addictions staff, support workers and many more with the single aim of providing the best quality healthcare within the three prisons, comparable to that which would be provided outside the prison walls.”

The Trust spokesperson continued: “Many of these staff work in hospitals, GP surgeries and other healthcare settings as well as in the prisons, providing exactly the same standard of care.

“Healthcare staff are not employed by the NI Prison Service. These staff are ordinary, dedicated individuals working in caring professions, for the good of their patients.”

A statement from the Department of Justice added: “The provision of healthcare in Prisons is the responsibility of South Eastern Trust and NIPS continues to work in partnership with them to ensure all prisoners are afforded access to this service.

“If a prisoner has a complaint about any aspect of the prison regime, there are robust processes in place to allow them to do so.”


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