Hepatitis B a growing problem in UK prisons

Senior Reporter

Hepatitis B, the virus which spreads through the sharing of needles to inject drugs and unprotected sex, is on the rise in England’s jails, official figures have revealed.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Health Minister Norman Lamb said the number of prisoners diagnosed with chronic forms of the virus has risen from just 22 in 2010 to 109 in 2013.

The figures, compiled by Public Health England (PHE), also show that over the same period the number of vaccinations against the virus in jails has fallen, despite the prison population increasing to a record 85,000. In 2010/11, 109,827 doses of the vaccine were administered, but this fell to 74,785 in 2012/13.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus which causes inflammation of the liver and can also cause long term liver damage. It is usually spread by humans sharing contaminated equipment while injecting drugs, or sexually. 

Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, who asked the parliamentary question, said the data raised “serious public health questions” about what was going on in prisons, which he said “appear to be being made worse as a result of this government’s policies”.

He added: “While prisoners are behind bars, ministers may believe this is a controllable problem but 90 per cent of them will be free and walking the streets in the near future.”

In his answer, Mr Lamb said it was unclear whether the affected prisoners had become infected while they were in jail “or due to risk activity prior to incarceration”.

Dr Marcus Bicknell, chair of the Secure Environments Group at the Royal College of GPs, said the rise may be down to an increase in the number of foreign prisoners.

“At my own clinical practice I see a higher prevalence of HIV and Hepatitis B from foreign nationals… we have tremendous ethnic diversity in our country and also in our prison system, and that means we’re inevitably going to diagnose more cases,” he said.

But Dr Éamonn O’Moore, director of health and justice at PHE, said the rise “most likely represents improved levels of testing among prisoners and improved reporting to PHE, rather than a rise in the true prevalence of infection.”

A Department of Health spokesperson added: “Making sure prisoners get a prompt diagnosis and the treatment they need benefits everyone, both inside and outside the prison walls. This rise in cases is because we are getting better at testing but we know we can still make further improvements.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

    £40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

    Test Job

    TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

    Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

    Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

    Day In a Page

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis