EXPERTS at Airedale General Hospital are now working with Brixton Prison to deliver healthcare to inmates using telemedicine, so they seek help and advice from doctors and nurses without leaving the South London jail.

The scheme involves using clinical consultation via secure video link with equipment located both in the prison's healthcare centre and a Telehealth Hub, based at a Airedale Hospital, Steeton, where clinicians can carry out ‘virtual’ consultations.

It means they can talk face-to-face with the prisoner and occasionally carry out examinations using close up hand-held cameras if necessary.

To launch the initiative, Care UK, the independent healthcare provider which runs the healthcare centre at HMP Brixton, has teamed up with Immedicare – a partnership between Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and technical providers Involve, which provides the telemedicine service from Airedale Hospital.

The prison is linked to the Telehealth Hub, which is run by the Trust’s specialist nurse and consultant teams, 24-hours-a- day, seven-day a week.

Care provided covers a range of health problems including serious situations from A&E consultants and second opinions on other medical conditions via scheduled appointments with consultants or therapists.

Rebecca Malin, deputy director of strategy and business development at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a great example of partnership. Immedicare has provided the technology and secondary care expertise and is working with Care UK to design the best methods of delivering the right care at the right place at the right time.

“There is a saving as there is no longer the cost of an escort for offenders leaving the premises.

"We are also helping to provide round-the-clock urgent care in a much more convenient service by supporting offenders to receive care in their own environment when they need it. Prison healthcare staff also often benefit from working with our consultants in this way."

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“We hope this will be the start of a long, successful relationship with Care UK with Brixton being a ‘blueprint’ for providing healthcare in an offender setting.”

A n Airedale NHS Trust spokesman said the service was generating welcome funds.

"Providing telemedicine service for prisons does generate an income – and that is ploughed back into our services at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.

"We use the same cost model for our telemedicine service for anyone who commissions our service – whether it be an NHS area team or Care UK.

"In this case Care UK is the commissioner for healthcare at Brixton Prison – they hold the escort budget.

"In other cases, for example Wakefield prison, the West Yorkshire area NHS team is the commissioner.

"It is the same cost model for whoever commissions this service," she said.