Improving the Sexual Health of Men in NI prisons


The School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast has come up with an inventive new way to improve the sexual health of men in Northern Ireland’s prisons.

The team at Queen’s worked with a group of young men from Hydebank Wood College to develop a video animation promoting a positive attitude to sexual heath testing among men in Northern Ireland’s prisons.

Dr Carmel Kelly, Consultant Nurse in Sexual Health in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast, who holds a joint appointment with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, explained that the project had two strands:

“Firstly, we introduced a nurse led initiative to provide asymptomatic sexual health check-ups for patients. This is the first time nurses have provided comprehensive check-ups, as prior to this the medical consultants mostly saw patients who were showing symptoms. Nursing staff completed eLearning modules and attended training provided by the Trust's sexual health team before piloting the service. A failsafe process for the appropriate management of all positive results received by prison healthcare staff is coordinated by the Trust's Sexual Health Nurse Advisor.

“Secondly, we used a participatory action research model with a group of young men from Hydebank Wood College, which resulted in the development of a short animation video, encouraging a positive approach to looking after one's sexual health by attending check-ups.”

The young men were involved as co-producers in developing the animation to ensure their voices were heard and that they could relate to the final version. This approach allowed the young men from the College to develop a video which was relevant and authentic to them.

The video was launched on 15 March 2018 at Hydebank Wood College. Governor Richard Taylor, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael Mc Bride and researchers from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast were all in attendance at the launch.

This project, funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, has been developed in collaboration with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, who are responsible for providing healthcare in our prisons.

Also working on the project was Dr Michelle Templeton, Research Fellow in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast. Dr Templeton, who has experience using participatory methods with children and young people, said:

“This project is an excellent example of how key health messages can be communicated to young men in a meaningful way. Including their voices and experiences during the creation of the intervention means that they are more likely to hear and act on those messages, which will not only improve their sexual health but also that of their partners and future partners.”

Tracey Heasley, Clinical Nurse Lead for prison healthcare in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, welcomed the project as an example of the Trust’s commitment to making all health services accessible to patients within prison: “Our prison healthcare service is increasingly primary care led with an emphasis on the expansion of roles and responsibilities of nurses. Introducing a nurse led sexual health service for patients without symptoms, will mean that patients with symptoms or testing positive will get to see our medical Consultant much quicker.”

Professor Maria Lohan, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast, who was Co–Investigator in the project added: “Hydebank Wood College has been key to the success of this project because it is a European leader in promoting innovative approaches to the rehabilitation of young male offenders through education. Queen’s University Belfast adds to this approach by helping to build the evidence based approaches to this education, making it truly effective in improving the lives of young men and the communities to which they will return.”

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer said: “The health needs of the prison population are much greater than the community as a whole. This includes the area of sexual health which is an important part of overall physical and mental health. As ever, early intervention and effective treatment, together with education to reduce future risk are key to success. All these elements are included in this project and I am delighted that QUB, the South Eastern Trust, Hydebank Wood College, and young male prisoners themselves have worked together to develop such an innovative approach to improving the sexual health of this frequently marginalised section of our society.”

Welcoming the initiative, Richard Taylor, Governor at Hydebank Wood College, said, “I am pleased to have been able to work alongside Queen’s University and our colleagues in the South Eastern Trust to tackle what is a sensitive issue, that of sexual health in young men.

“Very often, sexual health is a taboo subject, especially with young males. It is therefore important that we in the Northern Ireland Prison Service do all that we can to support these young men to change their perspectives and to challenge them to change their habits.

Ultimately, Hydebank Wood College is working to keep young men safe, be it inside or outside of the College, and to show them a better road to take when they’re released. This initiative is another step towards this.”