Those in the custody of the IPS are treated as individuals with healthcare needs irrespective of the context in which they may be placed and irrespective of their offence.
The prison healthcare service is responsible for the primary medical care of all prisoners including:
- The health and medical assessment of all new prisoners on committal
- The ongoing general medical care of prisoners
- Prescribing an appropriate course of treatment and monitoring that treatment for its duration
- Referral for specialist opinion, where appropriate. No in-patient care is provided within Irish prisons. Secondary care provided in prisons may include treatment and care by psychiatrists, specialists in substance abuse and specialists in STI, while all other secondary care is provided by acute hospitals in the Irish Health Service. If a prison doctor refers a prisoner to a external secondary service, the prisoner will be placed on the public waiting list and once he/she is called for the appointment, his/her escort to the appointment will be facilitated by the IPS
- Liaison with other professionals involved in the overall care and well-being of the prisoners
- Screening prisoners for relevant diseases
- Ensuring the provision of vaccination programmes for prisoners
Each prison has a minimum of one prison doctor who attends the prison Monday to Friday and also provides an out of hours on call service. The times of attendance of each doctor varies between prisons. Nurses provide 24 hour cover in all closed prisons.
The doctor and nurses are the first point of contact for prisoners seeking medical treatment and provide services similar to those available in a GP practice in the community. Prisoners can request to see the doctor or nurses at any time.