To mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day this October, we are publishing a blog by Dr Mary Turner, Reader in Health Services Research, University of Huddersfield, UK, and Co-chair of the EAPC Task Force on Mapping Palliative Care for Prisoners. Below she highlights an important initiative: the European Association for Palliative Care’s Task Force on Palliative Care for Prisoners.
People in prison and the increasing need for palliative care
Saturday 12th October 2019 is World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, a day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care globally. On this day, we should remember the growing numbers of people in prison around the world who are approaching the end of their lives in custody and have palliative care needs, needs that are often unmet.
The worldwide prison population has increased by 20% in the last 15 years to almost 11 million , despite falling crime rates . As a result of longer sentences, more people are growing old in prison, and with an ageing prison population comes poorer health, increasing numbers of deaths, and a growing need for palliative care in prisons. The World Health Organisation defines palliative care as:
An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual. 
There is international agreement that people in prison should receive the same standards of healthcare that are available in the community , including palliative care. Different countries have different approaches to dying imprisoned people; however, there has been very little international research in this area to date. To begin to address this gap, in 2017 the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) established a Task Force to investigate palliative care provision for people in prison in Europe. The Task Force has two main aims: to establish a network of people interested in palliative care for people in prison; and to undertake mapping work to explore various aspects of palliative care provision in prisons in Europe. The network currently consists of 75 members from 18 countries, who receive a newsletter three times a year; this provides an update on the work of the Task Force, shares examples of good practice and highlights relevant papers and articles.
The Task Force has recently completed the first part of the mapping work, a survey about prison systems and processes in relation to palliative care provision. Eight countries completed the survey, and the full report will shortly be published on the EAPC website: https://www.eapcnet.eu/eapc-groups/task-forces/prisoners-palliative-care. The second part of the mapping project will be undertaken over the next year; this is a qualitative study to explore specific issues in the provision of palliative care in greater depth. The Task Force project is due to complete in 2021.
For further information about palliative care for people in prison, please see:
If you would like to get involved or join the network, please email Mary Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Walmsley, R. (2019) World Prison Population List (twelfth edition). Institute for Criminal Policy Research, University of London. Available from: https://www.prisonstudies.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/wppl_12.pdf. Accessed 10 September 2019.
- Prison Insider (2018). Global Prison Trends 2018. Available from: https://www.prison-insider.com/en/ressources/analyses/rapports/tendances-mondiales-de-l-incarceration-2018. Accessed 10 September 2019.
- World Health Organisation (2019). Definition of palliative care. Available from: https://www.who.int/cancer/palliative/definition/en/. Accessed 8 September 2019.
- United Nations (2016). United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules). United Nations General Assembly. Available from: https://www.un.org/en/events/mandeladay/mandela_rules.shtml. Accessed 8 September 2019.
Dr Mary Turner, Reader in Health Services Research, University of Huddersfield, UK, and Co-chair of the EAPC Task Force on Mapping Palliative Care for Prisoners
Mary Turner is a Reader in Health Services Research at the University of Huddersfield. She is a qualified nurse and had a lengthy career in oncology and palliative care nursing, in both clinical practice and leadership roles, before completing her PhD at King’s College London and moving into a research career. After 10 years in the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University, she moved to the University of Huddersfield in July 2017. She has worked on a wide range of research projects focused on palliative and end of life care, and her research has incorporated the perspectives of patients, caregivers and staff in different care settings. Her most recent work is in the area of ageing and dying in prison, and she is currently leading an international Task Force on palliative care for prisoners for the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC).