Managers Take A Healthy Attitude To Caring Behind Bars

The Scottish Health Awards recognise the professionals across the many sectors of the nation’s health service, from hospitals to consultants and volunteers. One group who are often overlooked are the many hundreds of people working with the Scottish Prison Service, providing the same level of care to inmates which is available to the general public. John Porter, nursing services manager at the Scottish Prison Service, felt the work carried out by Frank Gibbons deserved special recognition and he has nominated the health care manager from Barlinnie for the Unsung Heroes Award.

“Frank has advocated rigorously the rights of prisoners and has worked tirelessly to develop links with a number of agencies,” said John. “He has shown great commitment to the development of mental health care and has used this to influence and inspire others.”

Frank and his 47-strong team run a comprehensive service in Barlinnie dealing with some of the most challenging members of society. They provide a health service for the prison as well as running the largest methadone clinic in Europe. They also have a residential care unit for more than 50 inmates with particular mental health issues.

Frank said: “Sometimes there is a perception that these people get too much, but we need to strike a balance. They are criminals but they are people who also need picked up and cared for.” His compassion has seen him speak up for many prisoners, especially those who would be better in hospital than jail.

“Many need to be cared for because they have been missed by the services outside and the criminal justice system is the only system that has cared for them,” he said. “It is a mish-mash of society but someone has got to dust them down and sort them out. It would be nice to get an award. But it would be for my team because I don’t do any of this by myself.”

Elsewhere in the prison service, the Health Care Team at Polmont Young Offenders Institute in Falkirk have also been nominated for the Unsung Heroes Award. Manager Sandra Hands described the service she and her team provide for young offenders aged between 14 and 23.

“At that age, many of them are not interested in maintaining and understanding their health,” she explained. They may have diabetes, asthma or a skin disorder, but most don’t see the consequences of not looking after themselves.”

More than 80 per cent of the 620 prisoners have not seen a dentist since they were at school and 80 per cent have drug and alcohol addictions.