The development and evaluation of a telepsychiatry service for prisoners

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004 Aug;11(4):461-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2004.00747.x.


The introduction of increasingly sophisticated telecommunication systems seems to offer opportunities to respond to some of the key problems around structural and spatial inequalities in access to health care. There is evidence which suggests that serious mental health problems are common among prisoners and psychiatric comorbidity is the norm. Many prisoners have complex mental health needs, but more often than not these remain unaddressed. Telepsychiatry is one strategy to improve the accessibility and quality of mental health care in the prison setting. This paper firstly reviews the current prison health care system and then describes a research study which is focused on the development and evaluation of a telepsychiatry service for prisoners. This study has investigated what is lost or gained in a psychiatric assessment when it is conducted via telepsychiatry. The researcher compared the inter-rater reliability between two raters interviewing 80 participants in an observer/interviewer split configuration in telepsychiatry and same room settings. The measure used was the Comprehensive Psychopathology Rating Scale. Prisoners and prison staff also took part in semi-structured interviews which focused on their satisfaction and acceptability of the telepsychiatry service. A cost comparison of the telepsychiatry service with the existing visiting service was conducted. This paper outlines the study design and focuses on the potential impact that telepsychiatry may have upon the practice setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health Services / economics
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Prisons / organization & administration*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Remote Consultation / economics
  • Remote Consultation / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • United Kingdom