The Probation-based Offender Health Trainer Demonstration Project has built on previous pilot activity in other regions and the existing Community Health Trainer service at NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale.
Its goal is to improve the health of offenders subject to supervision by the Probation Service, through offering personalised support and improving access to appropriate health services. At the same time, it aims to tackle local health inequalities, empower offenders, improve the employment prospects of ex-offenders, improve community re-integration and reduce reoffending rates.
The process evaluation aimed to capture learning from the development of the Offender Health Trainer partnership between health and probation services in Rochdale, and to inform the next stage implementation project and wider service roll-out. The study was designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the project as it evolved, and comprised three elements:
- Rapid Appraisal of National Offender Health Trainer Programme: Using literature review and informal conversations, this provided contextual information and summarised evidence of effectiveness of developments to date.
- Qualitative Review of Rochdale Offender Health Trainer Demonstration Project: This comprised seven interviews with staff involved in managing the project, ten interviews with service users, three interviews and one focus group with OHTs.
- Joint Action Planning and Reporting: Drawing on the above research, a workshop was held to present emergent findings, validate and expand data and enable action planning.
The research concluded that locating a Health Trainer service in the Probation Service reflects and legitimises a socio-ecological ‘settings’ model of health, which prioritises the integration of health within the culture, structure, processes and routine life of the organisation. It found that the Probation-based Offender Health Trainer model has been effective in terms of both the process of partnership working and wider impacts – and that Heath Trainers in this setting are ideally placed to encourage offenders to improve their health and reduce reoffending. With further funding secured for the Implementation Project, it is important to maximise the learning from this demonstration project to guide future decision-making, policy and practice.