Skip to main content


Prisoner mental health collaboration receives extension and funding boost

Posted on June 23rd 2017

A national collaboration supported by PenCLAHRC, investigating ways to support prisoners with mental health problems both before and after release, has received additional funding of almost £290,000 to continue its work for another 10 months.

Engager is a collaboration between Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD), the University of Manchester, University College London and the University of Exeter. It has already received funding in the region of £2.2 million from the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research (PGfAR), which has also supported this latest funding.

The project aims to develop and evaluate a way of organising care and support for prisoners both before and after release, based on an integrated approach including therapy, medication, housing, training and employment. The continuation of care post release is also of particular importance, as the risk of suicide for male offenders is eight times the national average, and over a quarter of fatal suicide attempts occur within a month of release.

The project is led by PenCLAHRC Deputy Director Professor Richard Byng, GP and Professor in Primary Care Research at PUPSMD. He comments:

“Offenders, and especially prisoners, have a high prevalence of mental health problems. Rates for various mental health conditions range from 50 to 90 per cent. Prisoners released from prison with mental health problems face difficulty with family relationships, employment, long-term illness, self-harm, depression and re-offending.”

In Phase One, the project team worked with eight local men - ‘peer researchers’ - who had served prison sentences, to ensure that the package of care given to offenders is suitable to others leaving prison. These men were able to use their experiences of being in prison, and the challenges they faced when they were released, to support, inform and even challenge the research team.

The second, ongoing phase, is a randomised control trial in which half the 280 prisoners receive the new integrated approach, while the other half receive the care that is usually available. The additional funding will enable the team to follow-up the prisoners involved in the study for an additional period of time, allowing the longer term impacts of the initiative to be investigated.

As well as investigating the benefits to released prisoners with mental health problems, the research team will also assess the economic impact of the new integrated approach to see if it results in savings to the public purse.

Dr Tim Kirkpatrick, Project Lead for Engager, comments:

“Our work with Engager will, we believe, result in a safer more comprehensive support network for them on release, which may result in reduced rates of re-offending and improved quality of life and opportunity. Not only would this be of benefit to the released offender, but also to the community as a whole and to hard-pressed health and social care budgets.


Our thanks go to the NIHR PGfAR for this additional funding which will allow us to follow up individuals for an additional six months and carry out a more detailed cross societal economic evaluation.”

For more information about the project, please visit the Engager project page.

This entry was posted in Project update and tagged Engager, PenCLAHRC, Professor Richard Byng, Research. Bookmark this permalink.