Prison officers' views about hepatitis C testing and treatment: a qualitative enquiry

Kathryn Jack, Natalie Islip, Paul Linsley, Brian Thomson, Anne Patterson

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AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To explore the views of prison officers in an English category B male prison about people in prison being tested and treated for hepatitis C. 

BACKGROUND: Hepatitis C testing and treatment in English prisons remain low with the reasons being poorly understood. Prison officers are in continuous contact with prisoners so might observe factors that may influence people in prisons' choice in whether to accept hepatitis C testing and treatment. 

DESIGN: A qualitative design within an interpretative framework was employed. 

METHODS: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 prison officers at an English male category B prison. The interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed at the prison. 

RESULTS: Four themes emerged Safeguarding, Stigma, Confidentiality and Education. Hepatitis C testing and treatment were supported in principle but if a person in prison poses a threat to the overall security of a prison, any health issues that are not immediately life threatening will be overridden, irrespective of the financial or health consequences. The prison officers respected people in prisons' confidentiality regarding health matters, but this could be compromised during violent incidents. All of the prison officers displayed limited knowledge about hepatitis C. 

CONCLUSIONS: This qualitative enquiry illustrates that prison security transcends health. This suggests that health providers may need to offer greater flexibility and collaboration across the network of National Health Service hospitals to maintain continuity in treatment if a prisoner is moved to a different establishment or liberated. 

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: This study introduces the notion that prison security staff may have a potential role in promoting or discouraging hepatitis C testing and treatment by the ways in which their knowledge impacts on their interactions with people in prison. Engaging this staff group in educational opportunities should be a component of commissioned hepatitis service delivery in prisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1861–1868
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number13-14
Early online date20 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • antiviral treatment
  • blood-borne virus
  • correctional facility
  • correctional officers
  • hepatitis C
  • interpretative
  • prison
  • prison officers
  • prisoners
  • qualitative

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