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Standards for health services in Australian prisons

Criterion 5.1.1 Health service facilities

Our health service facilities provide a safe and effective environment for patients and staff.


A. Our health service has at least one dedicated consulting room for the exclusive use of every GP and any other members of the clinical team working in our service at any given time (interview, direct observation).

B. Each area or room used by our health service is clearly identified for exclusive use by the health service (direct observation).

C. Each of our consultation rooms (which may include an attached examination or treatment room or area) (direct observation):

  • is free from excessive extraneous noise
  • has adequate lighting
  • is maintained at a comfortable ambient temperature
  • has an examination couch (for medical or clinical consultations only)
  • has facilities to protect patient privacy when patients need to undress for a clinical examination (eg. an adequate curtain or screen and gown or sheet).

D. Our health service has a waiting area that can accommodate the usual number of patients and other people who would be waiting at any given time (direct observation).

E. Our health service has an area that caters for the specific needs of patients who are at risk of self harm (direct observation).

F. Our health service has toilets and hand cleaning facilities readily available for use by patients and staff (direct observation).

G. Where appropriate, our health service has heating and/or air conditioning (direct observation).

H. Our health service has a dedicated telephone system with sufficient inward and outward call capacity (staff interview, direct observation).

I. Our health service has the capacity for dedicated electronic communication by facsimile or email (direct observation).

J. Prescription pads, letterhead, administrative records and other official documents stored in our health service are accessible only to authorised persons (direct observation).

K. Our health service can demonstrate how we ensure there is no smoking in our service (interview, document review, direct observation).

L. Our health service has security measures in place to prevent unauthorised access to our facilities and equipment (direct observation).


Health service facilities need to be safe for staff and patients. Health and safety refers not just to requirements within consultation areas but also to other areas of the health service.

While this criterion discusses consultation rooms, it is acknowledged that some health services may have areas other than rooms where patients are treated. These consultation areas need to be appropriate for the health and safety of staff and patients.

To encourage a safe and effective therapeutic environment, consultation rooms need to be clearly marked as space associated with the health service, such as with a sign on the door. Consultation rooms should be for the exclusive use of the health service and should not be shared with nonhealth service parties (eg. prison staff).

The consultation room temperature needs to be such that a patient who has undressed for a clinical examination remains comfortable.

The dignity of a patient can be protected and visual privacy maintained during clinical examinations by the use of a gown or sheet and an adequate curtain or screen positioned to maximise the privacy of the patient, particularly when the patient is required to undress for a clinical examination or procedure. This requirement is particularly important where there is a door opening to an area to which prison staff have access and where patients are required to undress or dress in the presence of the treating health professional. In instances where a third party such as a prison officer needs to be present for security and safety purposes, health services need to be careful to maintain the dignity of the patient when undressing or dressing is required.

Toilets for patient access should be located within the health service. Toilets not within the health service itself need to be within very close proximity and be easily accessible and well signposted. Washbasins need to be situated in close proximity to the toilets to minimise the possible spread of contamination. Washbasins need to be easily accessible to staff and patients. Separate staff and patient toilets are desirable.

For occupational health and safety reasons, there should be no smoking on the health service premises or in the environs.

All environments should satisfy the relevant state or territory and federal occupational health and safety laws.

The health service needs to have an area that caters for the specific needs of patients who are at risk of self harm. This safe room should be situated within or in close proximity to the health service to facilitate continual monitoring of the patient’s physical and mental health and allow for immediate intervention if needed. The room should be designed to minimise the potential for self harm (eg. no hanging points).

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