Shropshire Star

Why Shropshire prisoners are being trained on how to spot cancer

Prisoners in Shropshire are being equipped to start conversations and spot the signs and symptoms of cancer as part of a revolutionary approach to wellbeing.


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Those at HMP YOI Stoke Heath Prison in Market Drayton are being trained as Cancer Champions by Lingen Davies Cancer Fund as part of a long-running cancer awareness programme.

So far, four staff members and nine prisoners have been trained since the scheme was introduced in April - and it’s hoped these numbers will both double in the coming months as well as prison chaplains becoming involved.

Mark Greenhaf, Governor of Stoke Heath Prison, said it was a fantastic way to engage with prisoners and ensure their wellbeing is looked after.

He said: “The prisoners are the people, along with staff, driving forward initiatives such as this.

“I am so pleased Lingen Davies has trained staff and prisoners to be Cancer Champions - the statistics for cancer are frightening. The majority of the 782 prisoners at Stoke Heath have family and friends who are likely to be impacted by cancer in some way, probably while serving a sentence. We also have over 400 staff who will be similarly affected.

Miranda from Lingen Davies delivering Cancer Campions training at HMP Stoke Heath

“It has already become apparent, through conversations already had, that so many people here are impacted by cancer - directly or indirectly.

“Where it goes wrong is when people can’t vent and talk about things and that leads to declining mental health and self-harm. Many prisoners may have a complex background, therefore, any help and support we can offer to help them deal with their problems is a good thing.

“Since the scheme started, people are talking about cancer and feeling able to have a conversation about it in a safe space.”

The Cancer Champions training is just part of a bigger wellbeing initiative that Mark has introduced since he took up his role nine months ago.

He intends to create a ‘High Street’ in the prison with a barbers shop - and the barbers will be trained as Cancer Champions so they can have conversations with their customers - a cafe run by the prisoners learning cookery, a charity shop where prisoners can donate things for others to buy or have for free, and a repair shop which will be run by those learning textiles and prisoners who have skills fixing other items such as radios.

Some prisoners are Health Awareness Champions (HAWCs) who test all newly arriving prisoners for Hepatitis C - and they are just weeks away from eliminating the virus from the prison - and they are also developing a reading strategy and introducing therapy dogs that prisoners could be referred to for rehabilitation.

Stoke Heath Prison has named Lingen Davies as their charity of the year for 2024 and has already raised almost £1,000 from a staff v prisoners football tournament – where most donations were raised by the prisoners – and held a ParkRun with Whitchurch Running Club.

The charity also had a stand at a staff wellbeing day. Lingen Davies has been helping improve the lives of people affected by cancer across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, and Mid Wales for 45 years. The charity introduced the Cancer Champions scheme to enable others to raise awareness about cancer and engage with their peers to break down taboos.

Miranda Ashwell, the LiveLife Cancer Awareness Lead, has been delivering the training at Stoke Heath prison as well as many other locations across the county.

She said: “It is great to see Stoke Heath so forward thinking with their enthusiasm to train staff and prisoners to be Cancer Champions. Cancer can affect anyone and the more people we can train to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of cancer will hopefully help encourage more people to seek medical advice and get an early diagnosis.

“This is just part of the vital work Lingen Davies is doing across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, and Mid Wales and we welcome hearing from any other group or business who would like to support their workforce in this way.”

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