Biometric methadone system for prisons

NEC is rolling out a £3.5 million biometric-controlled methadone dispensing system to 100 English prisons.

Prisoners addicted to heroin will be able to access methadone prescriptions using a biometric system.

NEC has signed a five-year deal with the Department of Health (DoH) to provide Computer Controlled Methadone Dispensing Systems (CCMDS) to 100 prisons across England at a cost of some 3.5 million. The first phase, rolling out to 72 prisons, started last December and is expected to finish within six months.

The system ensures the right prisoner is receiving the correct dose of the addiction-management drug, by using fingerprints or iris scans to access treatment records before dispensing methadone. Taking part in the CCMDS is not mandatory for the prisoners, and no personal data is stored on the system.

To use the system, prisoners show up at their designated time to the prison pharmacy, explained Richard Farnworth, the general manager of enterprise solutions at NEC. They scan their fingerprints or iris to prove their identity - previously, a photo card or just an ID number was used.

Then, the machine dispenses the methadone in a plastic cup. A pharmacist overseas the process, and ensures the prisoner takes the methadone - rather than walk out the door with it. "It's about preventing abuse," Farnworth told IT PRO. "Methadone has a very high currency in prison."

Dave Marteau, offender health substance misuse lead at the DoH, said: "Biometric-based systems provide a level of patient safety that is highly desirable in a busy treatment environment. Our larger prisons see ten new patients per day, and have as many as three hundred patients on treatment at any one time. Biometric recognition linked to a computerised prescription is an excellent patient safety support to our clinicians."

Payette said such systems will become more common: "Biometric authentication and verification will continue to become more prevalent as the requirement for tighter security and absolute verification of an individual increases."

NEC will deliver the CCMDS, biometric software, network infrastructure, and computer hardware, as well as provide tech support and consultancy, alongside Methasoft UK and Human Recognition Systems. The system is already in place at several prisons, including Leeds, New Hall, Lindholme, Stafford, Chelmsford and Wayland.

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