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BY DORIS WILLIAMSON, Health Improvement Lead (Prisons), Prison Health Care,
Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

Health Improvement within the prison setting is alive and well and planning for progress.  As we prepared for the introduction of a smoke free prison environment we very quickly identified that there were lots of people living in prisons that needed support not just with stopping smoking but with a range of topics that impacted on their health. 

As we built on the changes coming over the horizon, in partnership with our colleagues from clinical services in the Prisons and Scottish Prison Service staff, we arrived at a very striking realisation – people in prison listen to other people in prison.  Anecdotally we became aware of the number of people referring for service who had been signposted by someone who had gone through our service and successfully stopped smoking.

We began to talk about the opportunity to engage successful participants in sharing the messages and from this began the development of an idea to formalise this support with training and further opportunities.

A period of planning and development has been followed through and we can now confirm a Peer Mentor programme will be delivered within the three prisons of the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Board area. The programme will provide training and support to individuals who will share key messages applicable to those in custody.

There is an aim that the peer mentors will become an integral part of the Health Improvement work stream to enhance targeted health care services and reduce health inequalities for those in custody.

Key health issues affecting those in custody where identified and will reflect the training topics delivered to the mentors. Bespoke training is also being created following specific needs identified in the pilot programme.

Alongside training on key health messages mentors will participate in training to explore the wider determinants of health and the impact that has on them and their wider community. Through education and lived experience, peer mentors will be more readily available to support others out with regular service times. We will cover topics such as effects of second hand smoke, becoming nicotine free, Oral Health Improvement, Health Minds mental health awareness work, harm reduction information relating to Blood Borne Virus, keeping yourself safe in prison and Naloxone use.

The programme aims to provide opportunity for all mentors to thrive this includes the opportunity to achieve an SCQF Level 5 Community Achievement Award provided by Glasgow Kelvin College. This qualification evaluates an individual’s contribution in community activity and upon liberation they will be offered an interview for college to help progress to further learning or into employment.

On completion of the programme the mentors also have the opportunity to participate in the Fife College Employability Programme. Links with community organisations aim to provide opportunities for mentors to continue their role in a community organisation upon liberation. By demonstrating active citizenship the mentors will also generate a positive self-image and in turn enhance confidence and self-esteem.

COVID-19 has brought a number of restrictions for individuals within prison, this includes limited access to services – highlighting a greater need for the peer mentor programme to ensure a form of support is available.

The programme will be evaluated by Stirling University and the report will be available for distribution on completion.

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