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Empowering prisoners to make their voices heard


Local Healthwatch aim to speak to every section of their community about their experiences of care. This is not always straight forward as Healthwatch found out when they worked to engage with prisoners in Peterborough. 

Prisoners hands

With a large and expanding prison in the city, and with prisoners known to have significant physical and mental health issues, Healthwatch Peterborough recognised the need to engage with this group whose voices are often not heard.

They worked with the nursing staff at HMP Peterborough to nominate wellbeing representatives within the prison who could promote health campaigns, support other prisoners and find out about their experiences and concerns.

Wellbeing representatives:

  • Support prisoners to raise concerns directly with staff
  • Are there for prisoners to talk to about any issues they are experiencing
  • Discuss issues with Healthwatch Peterborough staff who can take them higher within the prison or ask for external support if needed.

This pilot scheme has resulted in a number of achievements including:

Prisoners becoming more health aware

This work has enabled national organisations to promote preventive health and wellbeing campaigns to prisoners to help improve their health.

Reduction in complaints

The prison has received fewer complaints about prisoners’ medication and the prisoners themselves have become more confident in the system.

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Getting more prisoners’ voices heard

The introduction of a wellbeing representative has helped encourage prisoners to share their concerns. It has given new prisoners someone to talk to who they feel they can be more open with than staff members.

Sharing best practice across the country

This work has been shared with local Healthwatch across the country, including training on how to train wellbeing representatives. In addition, both NICE and the Care Quality Commission have asked Healthwatch Peterborough to help support them in terms of their information on prisoner health and delivery.

Clinks, an organisation that supports, represents and campaigns for the voluntary sector working with offenders has highlighted this work and shared it with Clinks members across the country in their latest report.

Healthwatch Peterborough’s Chief Officer, Angela Burrows, said: “We are delighted that our work has been recognised by a leading organisation in this field. We will continue to develop and share the project nationally”.

Read more about Healthwatch Peterborough’s work on engaging prisoners in health and care.