Health services assess and meet families’ health needs while in detention and promote continuity of health and social care on release. Health services recognise the specific needs of detainees as displaced persons who may have experienced trauma. The standard of health service provided is equivalent to that which people could expect to receive elsewhere in the community.

23. Health services assess and meet the specific health needs of parents and children in detention and promote continuity of health and social care on release.

The following indicators describe evidence that may show this expectation being met. They do not exclude other ways of achieving it.

  • Families are promptly screened by health services staff on arrival. When required, they can access a doctor within 24 hours.
  • Families have prompt access to appropriate primary physical and mental health services. Secondary health care is immediately accessed when necessary.
  • Health services are based on a health needs assessment.
  • Clinical governance arrangements are in place, which include the management and accountability of staff.
  • Health care staff have sufficient knowledge and qualifications to care for children.
  • Staff are trained to recognise, treat and report any signs of trauma and torture or other health issues that may affect fitness to detain.
  • Detainees with mental health problems are transferred to specialist secondary and tertiary care if clinically indicated.
  • Detainees continue to have access to their prescribed medication unless this is discontinued on medical advice.
  • Substance use needs are identified, assessed and treated appropriately.

Human rights standards

Health services
In relation to expectation 23 above: Everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. See ICESCR 12. Human rights standards require that detainees be provided with the same standard of health care as available in the community and that places of detention should safeguard and improve the health of those in their care. See SMR 24, 25; EPR 39, 40; CPT 9; UNHCR–DG 8 [48(vi)].

Standards require detainees’ health care needs to be assessed on arrival, including identifying all health care needs, the risk of self-harm and any previous ill-treatment. See EPR 40; SMR 30. See additionally in relation to women, BR 6-8. Standards require health needs to be monitored and met throughout detention. See EPR 39–43, 46, 47.2; SMR 25–27, 30–34 and additionally in relation to women BR 10, 11, 18 and children, CRC 24; HR 49–54.

In the context of immigration detention, it is important that the vulnerabilities of individuals are identified to ensure the impact of detention on vulnerable detainees is monitored and that they are safeguarded from harm. See standards relating to safeguarding vulnerable adults (in relation to expectations 7–10).