Managing returns to prison from medium-secure services: qualitative study

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Little is known about factors that influence discharge decision-making for people admitted to medium-secure services from prison, particularly for those who are returned to prison following treatment.

To explore the organisational influences on care pathways through medium-secure services for those admitted from prison.

We recruited 24 clinicians via purposive and snowball sampling; 13 shared their experiences via a focus group, and 11 shared their experiences via individual semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis was conducted, producing three overarching themes: maintenance of throughput and service provision, class of two systems, and desirable and undesirable patients.

Data indicated external factors that direct and, at times, limit clinicians’ pathway decisions, including commissioning criteria and legal status under the Mental Health Act 1983 and within the criminal courts system (i.e. whether on remand or sentenced). These factors also influence how clinicians view the role and function of medium-secure services within the wider forensic mental health system, and therefore the types of patients that are deemed ‘appropriate’ for continued treatment when making discretionary pathway decisions.

There remains a deficit in adequate resources to meet the mental health needs of prisoners who are admitted to medium-secure services. To meet the clinical need of all admissions, criteria for prolonged treatment in medium-secure services needs to be reconsidered, and it is likely that provision for the medium-secure hospital estate will need to increase substantially if effective rehabilitation of those who transfer from prison is to take place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e111
JournalBJ Psych Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2021


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