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Prison nursing

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This page introduces the role of prison nurse, and describes the entry requirements and training.

Role of a prison nurse

Prison nurses can be employed either directly by the prison service or by the NHS depending on the particular prison.  Increasingly, they are employed by the NHS and their work is overseen by the local NHS primary care trust (PCT).

They may choose to spend part of their week working in the community and part of their working week in prison healthcare.

The service aims to provide a standard of care equivalent to the wider NHS.  Nursing in prisons is comparable to working as a practice nurse in a GP surgery but is arguably more challenging, with higher concentrations of patients needing help for mental health and substance misuse problems.  There are also opportunities for work in health promotion as many of these patients would not normally access healthcare in the community.

Entry requirements

To work as a nurse in prison, you need to have qualified as a registered nurse and preferably be registered in adult, mental health or learning disabilities. For information about training as a registered nurse, click here.

There is also a range of eligibility criteria, for example relating to your right to residency in the UK.


Within the prison service you will get training on prison related aspects of your work, in addition to normal continuing professional development (CPD) activities. The partnership between the prison service and the NHS means that work and development opportunities are available to you in both organisations at the same time.

Prison specific training is also available, including healthcare manager leadership training, NVQ in custodial healthcare and transcultural healthcare practice training.

Comprehensive induction programmes are available at local level.


For details of current vacancies for prison nurses, visit the prison service website. For general information about employment within the prison sector, contact the human resources department of your local primary care trust (PCT) or the nursing advisor at your local prison.

This article was originally published by NHS Careers

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I was unaware of this niche for nursing. Very interesting post, going to quote some of this info on my nhs careers site as a viable career path.


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