If you have a family member or friend in prison who is expected to die in the next few months, this blog has information for you. It’s about what prisoners and their family and friends can expect and the different members of the healthcare and prison team that can support them.

What can prisoners expect?

Although all prisons are different, prisoners should expect good care whether they are being cared for in prison or elsewhere. The NHS has a practical guide for prison staff and healthcare teams about implementing high quality end of life care in prisons. Prisoners should expect:

  • healthcare staff to talk openly with them about their end of life wishes
  • the services involved in their care to co-ordinate with each other
  • high-quality care, wherever they are
  • to be offered physical and emotional support from their healthcare staff
  • their family and friends to get support and care to help them cope with their loss.

Who can prisoners ask for support?

If you have a family member or friend in prison who is dying, it is important to know where they can receive the care support and information they need. Support can come from:

  •  the prison healthcare team, who will help to make sure they get all of the information they need about controlling symptoms and their care. If required the team may also refer to services outside of the prison such as the Macmillan Team or Specialist Palliative care
  •  the prison team, this might be a family liaison officer (or a member of staff in a similar role), who can act as a link between you and the prison. They may be able to organise increased family contact towards the end of the patient’s life
  • a prison chaplain, involved in supporting people with different faiths
  • other prisoners, who can provide a source of listening support.

Where can prisoners be cared for?

As a family member or friend of a prisoner who is dying, you may want to know where prisoners could be cared for during this time. This can vary depend upon many things such as risk assessment, and the type of care that they need.

Prisoners may be allowed to be cared for in the following locations:

  • on the residential wing
  • in the prison inpatient unit. Many prisons now have palliative care suites to support the delivery of quality care at the end of life.  In some areas staff work closely with palliative care nurses and doctors to give them the advice and care that they need
  • in hospital
  • in hospices, who specialise in managing symptoms and caring for people who are dying.

The prisoner may decide to apply for compassionate release to be cared for at home. Applications for compassionate release are usually made when someone is thought to be reaching the last three months of their life. If they make an application, this does not mean they will get released.

Support for family and friends

We have information for you if you have had a family member or friend die in prison or if they are currently receiving end of life care in prison.

You can find out more information about dying with cancer in prison in our booklet called Dying: a guide for prisoners in England and Wales.  We also have a booklet called End of life: a guide, which can provide more information for you about what happens at the end of life and how to prepare for it.

If you are worried about financial support such as bereavement benefits (like a bereavement payment, widowed parent’s allowance or a bereavement allowance), more information can be found in our helpful financial booklets. This and other information about support after death can be found on the Macmillan website.

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The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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