'Nobody's listening'

Families often tell us that nobody listens to either them or their loved one when they raise concerns about health issues. Many find themselves phoning or writing to the prison multiple times. Some families resort to getting solicitors, specialist consultants or MPs involved as they try to get their voices heard.

Some background

Healthcare providers and the NHS tell us that the pressures they are under means that it's not always easy for them to respond to families. Time constraints and the priority of delivering patient care limit their ability to liaise with families. They sometimes feel blamed for things that aren't in their control.

Healthcare teams have told us they recognise that some families and carers know their loved ones best and have valuable insights that will help them deliver the right care. If you have been a primary carer to your loved one for a long time; they have a complex health condition; lack capacity or have a particular vulnerability, then it's more likely that you'll be seen as offering a perspective that adds value to what your loved one could say for themselves. Families usually also find they're able to be more involved if their loved one is under eighteen.

Healthcare teams tell us that abusive messages are unwelcome – and they are often having to sift through lengthy messages to get to the relevant details. They say it's easier to listen when families communicate concisely and respectfully. They agree that staff should be polite and respectful to you and your loved one and say they would investigate where poor treatment was reported.

Our top tips

  • Be polite and concise. Don't get angry or make accusations. Keep your cool, even if provoked. Try to stick to the facts.
  • Describe your credentials as a carer so the extra knowledge you bring is clear. Provide relevant documents.
  • Ask a professional to raise issues for you, such as a solicitor, GP or specialist consultant. There is information on how to complain on the Prisoners' Families Helpline website.
  • Remember names. Asking people's names and thanking them personally can sometimes help break down barriers. It also means any rudeness can be investigated.