‘Support Staff Lied About Ward Death’

Two Swansea health workers who were restraining a patient at the time of his death have been accused of lying about their evidence. Neil Owen and Wayne Norman were working as nursing support workers at Cefn Coed Hospital when 32-year-old patient Kurt Howard died on June 29, 2002.

The allegations were put to both health workers during an inquest into Mr Howard’s death, by barrister Leslie Thomas. The inquest is in its second week at Swansea’s Guildhall.

Mr Thomas alleges that the four health workers involved in restraining Mr Howard that day not only used “unnecessary force” when holding him in the prone position, but had also assaulted him, and were lying in their evidence to cover up their actions.

Steven Parsons, who was the staff nurse on duty on Ward Five that day, and yesterday’s two witnesses, Mr Owen and Mr Norman, each deny the allegations.

Another witness involved in the restraint, Paul Hunt, has yet to be cross-examined.

The inquest has heard that Mumbles-born Mr Howard was diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis, and had that day been verbally abusive and physically violent.

He had to be restrained at around 7.30am in his room, and was injected with rapid-acting tranquillizers to calm him down.

But at around 8.30am he had again become violent, hitting out at Mr Owen and Mr Hunt, leading them and Mr Norman to restrain him on his bed, with Mr Parsons holding his head.

It was during the second restraint that Mr Howard rolled off his bed, pulling the staff with him, and ended up lying on his face on the floor in the prone position.

Both witnesses told the inquest jury yesterday how Mr Howard continued to swear, threaten, kick, bite, scram and punch the staff as they restrained him on the floor.

But, around an hour after they began their restraint, Mr Howard suddenly became limp and despite efforts with mouth-to-mouth and CPR, he died.

Discrepancies have been raised over the time the second restraint is meant to have started, with Mr Parsons and Mr Owen initially giving the time as 7.45am, before changing it to 8.30am.

There has also been confusion about which staff were restraining Mr Howard’s left arm during the second restraint incident that day.

Mr Thomas also asked how it was possible that none of the staff involved in the restraint received any injuries when Mr Howard was an “11” on a 1-10 scale of aggression, according to Mr Owen and Mr Norman’s evidence.

“If this man is being so violent that he’s kicking, scratching, spitting, biting and lashing out, how come you don’t end up with a scratch on you?” he asked Mr Norman.

“Luck? Or is it because the suggestion you’re making is a pack of lies?”

“No,” replied Mr Norman.

Mr Norman’s evidence is to continue this afternoon, when he will be cross-examined by his barrister, Mikhael Puar, and Robert Francis, representing Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust.

The inquest is due to conclude early next week.