Link workers are enhancing mental healthcare for black and ethic minority prisoners.

One such person, community development worker Irfan Mohammed, acts as a link worker for prisoners in Dorset.

His background and training enable him to understand and deal with issues affecting them that could otherwise have serious consequences.

As the prisons lead, Irfan is involved with mental health issues that can affect the high proportion of BME prisoners in Dorset’s prisons. He tries to make prisoners more aware of mental health issues, encouraging them to seek help sooner and ensuring treatment is tailored to their needs. The role is relatively new and forms part of the government’s five-year plan, Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care.

Dorset primary care trust has focused on identifying ways to develop support services and deliver race equality. This involves targeting BME prisoners and confronting the marginalising cultural taboos that may prevent them from taking advantage of mainstream provisions and opportunities.

Using a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency approach, Dorset PCT is developing a cultural competence training programme. This will be piloted in a local prison, which has 78 per cent foreign national prisoners, before being rolled out to all prisons across the area.

It aims to develop prison workforce cultural competence and raise the quality of a culturally responsive service. The PCT and local prisons partners are both key to this.

Each prison healthcare centre will appoint a diversity lead responsible for implementing diversity training in their team and promoting cultural competence. The programme will be based on a range of learning styles, including presentations, workshops and discussions.

This approach aims to empower the prison workforce with the practical knowledge and understanding to drive the race and equality agenda and contribute to mental healthcare services that meet BME prisoners' needs, while promoting excellence in mental healthcare and service provision.