Prison healthcare

Healthcare in a prison

Published on : 10/30/19
  • With everything from life-threatening emergency situations to routine eye check-ups all handled under the same roof, the role of the Sodexo healthcare professionals requires a unique attitude and skill set. 

    Jon Ruddock, Corporate Head of Healthcare for Sodexo Justice, explains that while the challenges are multi-faceted, the rewards can be compelling.

    “People perhaps don’t consider the role of healthcare in a prison but, in common with the rest of society, those in custody are due a duty of care and access to a full range of clinical services, be that a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist,” explains Jon.  

    The key difference within a prison is that we are providing an extensive range of services in one location, coupled with the fact that many of our residents often have additional challenges.

    "For example, more than half are likely to have significant mental health problems such as psychological issues, personality disorders or anxiety-driven illnesses.”

    Jon understands these complexities well, having qualified as a mental health nurse 23 years ago. He has since held a variety of roles in NHS community healthcare, substance misuse units and hospitals. He also has significant experience in the private sector, with responsibility for the delivery of healthcare in more than 20 prisons in the south and south east of England. 

    Jon joined Sodexo at HMP Peterborough in September 2018 and is full of admiration for the doctors, nurses, specialists and assistants who form the clinical teams across Sodexo-run prisons. 

    “To work in a prison healthcare environment you have to be able to turn your hand to a number of different things and, crucially, you have to be good in a crisis,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us to have to deal with people who attempt to take their own lives, or have to respond to victims of stroke or heart attack, and other sudden acute illnesses.

    On a weekly basis our people are providing fast, sometimes life-saving responses. Of course we call the emergency services but while we wait for them to arrive vital minutes can be lost, so we train our clinical teams to become experts in life support.

    Many nurses joining Sodexo have experience of working on acute or medical wards in hospitals and are equipped to manage fast-moving situations that require calm heads and swift decision-making. 

    Our nurses are skilled professionals who also hold expertise in a wide range of long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, epilepsy and mental health issues, for which adherence to strict clinical pathways are needed. 

    Healthcare assistants join Sodexo from a variety of health and social care backgrounds. Many of the services Sodexo’s teams provide reflect those people would encounter in clinics and health centres in the ‘outside’ community. 

    “Our aim is to provide everything possible that avoids someone having to leave the premises,” said Jon. “If someone does have to go outside the prison for treatment, it is not only undignified for them personally – they’d normally have to be chained to an officer – it is also very staff-intensive. That’s why we rely on our trained people to provide the best care we can inside the prison.”

    Providing emergency response, day-to-day care and support for release are all components of the job, making the working day incredibly varied.

    Sodexo healthcare teams can also play a vital part in turning round the lives of people who’ve arrived into custody with additional challenges, for example with substance addictions. 

    “Through a patient, skilled and consistent approach our staff can help people to reduce their dependency, and support them in making better health choices. Walking alongside someone turning their life around can be very rewarding and can have a big impact on the likelihood of them reoffending on release,” said Jon. 

    Sodexo has a range of opportunities in prison healthcare, including healthcare assistant, primary care nurse and specialist substance misuse nurse roles. We offer training at all levels through to advanced practitioner and non-medical prescriber. 

    We offer a range of exciting and rewarding jobs. Please see for our current vacancies in Sodexo Justice.

    Do you want to find out more about Sodexo Justice? Contact our Business Development team.