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Have you ever wanted to know what it's like to work in a prison?

Dr Gary Dyson, a prison GP from HMP Leeds, shares his insights into working with patients in an environment where no two days are ever the same.

HMP Leeds
HMP Leeds

Life as a prison GP is very different from working in ordinary general practice. The work is clinically highly varied and rewarding - from palliative care and minor fractures to serious medical emergencies. Dr Gary Dyson tells us more about his experiences of working as a prison GP.

'You’re ok, doc'

'You seem a bit stressed, you’re not going to whack me are you?' I asked with a smile on my face, looking my patient in the eye, who was just being admitted to prison that evening. 'No, no, no,' he said, as he relaxed in his chair and smiled back, 'you're okay, doc'. Not quite the usual way to start a consultation but for this gentlemen it worked. He relaxed and we could talk openly.

Assessing prison patients

The patient’s journey at HMP Leeds starts with them entering through reception (otherwise known as ‘admissions’), either from the police cells or from a court. Here they are assessed by the nursing team and if they have any medical concerns I am asked to assess them. They may be homeless, withdrawing from street drugs or suffering from chronic or acute mental illness, so every patient will be very different.

Work closely with colleagues from other disciplines

Typically, the majority of my day is spent doing clinics with patients with a wide range of chronic mental and physical health problems including substance misuse and social problems. I spend a lot of my time working with the patient, the healthcare multidisciplinary team and also the wider prison service, so life as a prison GP is very different from ‘normal general practice’ and it feels great to have colleagues from a lot of other disciplines that you work closely with.

Clinically varied and rewarding work

Working within a large remand site (a mixture of sentenced and non-sentenced prisoners) means that every day is very different. One day you may be helping the nurses treat an emergency, the next, discussing with the healthcare management team the clinical direction we should be taking, or attending one of the regular conferences with your colleagues from other prisons, which allows us to learn best practice. The work is clinically very varied and rewarding - from palliative care and minor fractures to serious medical emergencies.

Help build the foundations to recovery

Prison healthcare work is different and surprising at the same time. You can’t help but be enthused by the patients you try to help and the people you work with, and by them being in a static population it means that you can help build the foundations to recovery.

If you are inspired like I was, then why not give it a try!

Care UK is currently recruiting for a range of prison GP roles including:

Explore GP careers with Care UK

This article was updated on 3 December 2019.

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