Improving healthcare commissioning for probation: mapping the landscape

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Project title

Measuring and improving the health and quality of healthcare for offenders on community sentences: developing recommendations for commissioners and practitioners

Funding body  National Institute for Health Research, Research for Patient Benefit Programme
Total funding £149,674
  • Dr Coral Sirdifield, Research Fellow, CaHRU, University of Lincoln
  • Professor Charlie Brooker, Visiting Professor in Offender Health, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Professor David Denney, Professor of Social and Public Policy, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Professor Niro Siriwardena, Professor of Primary and Pre-Hospital Health Care, CaHRU, University of Lincoln
  • Mr Dean Maxwell-Harrison, Service User Representative
Overarching aim

To investigate the range and quality of healthcare for offenders in the community (on community sentences and post-release licences) in England, and produce a commissioning toolkit including: likely health needs, optimal commissioning strategies, and examples of best practice and ways of overcoming barriers that healthcare commissioners, probation workers, and health practitioners can use to measure and improve offenders’ health, and the quality of healthcare for this group.


To examine how healthcare is currently provided for probationers, what research tells us about good practice for improving probationers’ health, and what mechanisms can be used to measure and facilitate improvements in the quality of healthcare provision for this population.


We will take a mixed-methods approach combining a narrative systematic review with a brief online survey of all key stakeholders in England, analysis of policies and procedures, telephone interviews, and the creation of case studies in a purposive sample of six areas.


We aim to systematically map how healthcare is provided for offenders in the community across England and what the literature tells us about best practice in this area, and to explore the policy context within which delivery is taking place. We will also be able to provide detailed case studies of activities in six areas to show both what works well and where people have encountered barriers. Finally, we will be able to make recommendations around the development of quality indicators for offender health and healthcare.

Outputs Peer reviewed publications:

Sirdifield, C., Marples, R., Brooker, C., and Denney, D. (2019) NHS commissioning in probation in England – still on a wing and a prayer. Health and Social Care in the Community, 27:e697–e704

Sirdifield, C., Denney, D., Marples, R., and Brooker, C. (2019) Researching healthcare availability for probation clients: An illustration of methodological challenges and lessons in surveying organisations, British Journal of Community Justice, 15(2): 41-58

Brooker, C., Sirdifield, C., and Marples, R. (2019) Mental health and probation: A systematic review of the literature. Forensic Science International, Mind and Law, available at

Sirdifield, C., Marples, R., Brooker, C., and Denney, D. (2019) Improving the health and quality of healthcare for people on probation, Probation Quarterly, 14: 11-15

Sirdifield, C., Brooker, C., and Marples, R. (2020) Suicide and probation: A systematic review of the literature, Forensic Science International: Mind and Law,1 (100012),

Sirdifield, C., Marples, R., Denney, D., and Brooker, C. (2020) Perceptions of the effectiveness of health care for probationers”, International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Please also see our commissioning toolkit, available at .

Impact  This study fits with our work around enhancing experience and equity in healthcare and reducing health inequalities.

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