Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Quality indicators and performance measures for prison healthcare: a scoping review.

Bellass, Sue; Canvin, Krysia; McLintock, Kate; Wright, Nat; Farragher, Tracey; Foy, Robbie; Sheard, Laura


Sue Bellass

Kate McLintock

Nat Wright

Tracey Farragher

Robbie Foy

Laura Sheard


Internationally, people in prison should receive a standard of healthcare provision equivalent to people living in the community. Yet efforts to assess the quality of healthcare through the use of quality indicators or performance measures have been much more widely reported in the community than in the prison setting. This review aims to provide an overview of research undertaken to develop quality indicators suitable for prison healthcare.

An international scoping review of articles published in English was conducted between 2004 and 2021. Searches of six electronic databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, Scopus, Embase, PsycInfo and Criminal Justice Abstracts) were supplemented with journal searches, author searches and forwards and backwards citation tracking.

Twelve articles were included in the review, all of which were from the United States. Quality indicator selection processes varied in rigour, and there was no evidence of patient involvement in consultation activities. Selected indicators predominantly measured healthcare processes rather than health outcomes or healthcare structure. Difficulties identified in developing performance measures for the prison setting included resource constraints, data system functionality, and the comparability of the prison population to the non-incarcerated population.

Selecting performance measures for healthcare that are evidence-based, relevant to the population and feasible requires rigorous and transparent processes. Balanced sets of indicators for prison healthcare need to reflect prison population trends, be operable within data systems and be aligned with equivalence principles. More effort needs to be made to meaningfully engage people with lived experience in stakeholder consultations on prison healthcare quality. Monitoring healthcare structure, processes and outcomes in prison settings will provide evidence to improve care quality with the aim of reducing health inequalities experienced by people living in prison.


Bellass, S., Canvin, K., McLintock, K., Wright, N., Farragher, T., Foy, R., & Sheard, L. (2022). Quality indicators and performance measures for prison healthcare: a scoping review. Health & Justice, 10(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 20, 2022
Online Publication Date Mar 7, 2022
Publication Date 2022-03
Deposit Date Jun 16, 2023
Journal Health & Justice
Print ISSN 2194-7899
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 1
Keywords Law; Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
PMID 35257254
Additional Information Received: 1 July 2021; Accepted: 20 February 2022; First Online: 7 March 2022; : ; : Not applicable.; : Not applicable.; : The authors declare that they have no competing interests.