Watchdog finds ‘uncaring attitude’ led to death of diabetic woman prisoner

A “worryingly uncaring attitude” from jail staff and healthcare professionals led to the death of a diabetic female inmate in an isolation unit, the prisons watchdog has found.

The 45-year-old woman, who was serving a four-and-a-half-year term for robbery and assault, was left “lying on her cell floor for 21 hours” after being restrained when she became disruptive.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) said the woman was not seen to eat or drink anything during the period, and was not examined by a nurse despite three visits to her cell.

By the time the nurse examined her, the prisoner was seriously unwell and died in hospital from organ failure three days later.

The death was recorded as one of natural causes, but the ombudsman’s report, published on Thursday, identified a number of concerns.

This included “serious failings” about the prisoner being sent to an isolation unit, why the use of force on the prisoner was not filmed on a body-worn camera, and why she was not subsequently examined after restraint.

The report said: “There had been serious failings and a worryingly uncaring attitude on the part of prison and healthcare staff that led to (the prisoner’s) death.”

The ombudsman said 11 women prisoners in England and Wales died in the financial year 2018/19, up from eight in the previous 12 months.

The 11 deaths included three from self-inflicted injury – up from one in 2017/18 – and one from drugs-related causes.

Another female prisoner, a 46-year-old with bipolar disorder, serving a jail term for arson, was found hanged in her cell four days after telling a counsellor she intended to take an overdose upon her release from jail.

The report found staff did not start Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) procedures, the planning process for prisoners identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm.

The report said: “We were concerned that prison staff focused on (the prisoner’s) assertions that she would take her life after her release from prison and, on that basis, assessed that she was not at imminent risk of suicide in prison.

“There was no recognition that (the prisoner) repeatedly expressed thoughts of taking her own life and had a range of risk factors for suicide and self-harm.”

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