by Mala Dhakk, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Midlands, UK.
As the commissioners of health services within prisons we will be celebrating Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the welfare of prison inmates on 18 July this year.
We will celebrate for the first time this year by arranging a small get together with our lived experience panel members in Leicester. We will also send details of this day to all our secure estates to ask them to arrange something in support within the secure estate.
Among his many legacies, Nelson Mandela established the Mandela Rules, which state that healthcare in prisons should meet the standards and quality equivalent to that in the community.  Mr Mandela, of course, spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner in South Africa, before going on to become the nation’s first black president.
Nelson Mandela Day is held on 18 July each year to promote humane conditions of imprisonment and raise awareness about the experience of our prisoners, and to enable them to remain a part of our wider society.
Our aim in commissioning these services is to meet the needs of individuals in the same way as if they were not in prison, as far as possible. This in turn supports the Long Term Plan aims to reduce health inequalities. By integrating people into the community we can achieve better physical and mental health outcomes for everyone.
To achieve this we are embedding the voice of people who have been in prison into our commissioning cycles, in particular through the feedback of our lived experience panel.
Our Lived Experience Panel consists of people from all of the pathways in the criminal justice system. They are included in the Health and Justice procurement cycle including evaluating and scoring potential bidders responses.  They feed into consultations and formulate and share their lived experience in our strategic boards. 
One panel member said: “NHS England Health and Justice (East Mids) Lived Experience Expert Panel and Revolving Doors Agency came along at a time when I didn’t know which way my life would go. It has steered me in the right direction and given me a purpose. Best of all, it has allowed me to influence positive change for those most vulnerable. I am proud of all its achievements and am excited about its future projects.
And Nelson Mandela gave us all food for thought when he said: “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
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