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Contributing to the improvement of healthcare service outcomes at the largest prison in Australia by increasing employee engagement

There are many factors contributing to the challenges of delivering primary healthcare in a prison environment. For the Primary Healthcare Team at Serco-operated Acacia Prison, high staff turnover, low job satisfaction and increasing patient complaints were factors in performance decline.

Recognising that staff engagement was critical to identifying and implementing practice improvements, Manager Pansey Steward committed to making the Health Centre a better place to work. Efforts to help the team feel more valued, supported and empowered have included: regular team meetings and a forum for open, honest and respectful dialogue between management and staff; fostering a spirit of community and encouraging a culture of mutual respect and innovation; and a focus on social and sporting events.

These have helped to establish and maintain more harmonious working relationships whilst encouraging staff to become more confident and prepared to embrace best practice, thereby improving services and the wellbeing of the prisoner population.

For example, by dealing directly with more healthcare issues rather than referring to local hospitals, the team have reduced monthly ambulance call outs by 70%. Meanwhile patient waiting times have fallen significantly – as has the volume of complaints. In fact, the Independent Visitors for Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services reported zero healthcare complaints on one monthly visit, for the first time since the prison opened in 2001.