A prisoner at HMP Northumberland died after swallowing drugs smuggled in by his own mother

A prisoner who died at HMP Northumberland after swallowing drugs smuggled in by his own mother should have been taken to hospital, according to a report.

Shaun Hughes died of respiratory failure caused by “the effects of a combination of drugs” at HMP Northumberland in March 2016. The 34-year-old was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for burglary, misdemeanors class conduct and possession. C drugs in January 2015.

On March 19, 2016, at 3.40 p.m., staff noticed that Mr Hughes’ mother had passed him a package during a visit and, although staff responded immediately, he swallowed the package during a visit. a struggle. Mr Hughes and his mother told staff the package contained drugs.

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At 4.35pm Mr Hughes was taken back to his cell and staff noted that he had to be observed once every 60 minutes. A nurse examined him immediately after the restraint and again in his cell at 5.40 p.m. and found him to be “fit and healthy”.

However, the nurse did not arrange for Mr Hughes to be observed by staff and he was last seen at around 5.45 p.m. He was not checked for the remainder of the evening or during night and sadly he was found unconscious in his cell at 5:57 a.m. and pronounced dead at 6:47 a.m.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has since concluded he should have been taken to hospital after he was seen swallowing the packet. They also raised concerns that there had been 12 other deaths in prison since Mr Hughes’ death – two of which were suspected of being drug-related.

The report said there were ‘no clear procedures in place’ in Northumberland for dealing with incidents like this and concerns were raised about the nurse who witnessed Mr Hughes failing to recognize that he was at risk of developing drug toxicity and not ensuring that he was assessed and monitored. .

“Mr Hughes was not observed overnight and was found dead in his cell in the morning. Had expert medical and nursing staff been monitoring Mr Hughes in accordance with best practice, the outcome may have been different for him” , says the report. .

“There have been some shortcomings in the emergency response. I fear this continues to be a problem in Northumberland. We have investigated further drug-related deaths in Northumberland since Mr Hughes’ death and I’m afraid drugs always seem to be readily available in the prison.”

A number of recommendations were made, including ensuring that healthcare staff manage the risk to prisoners after swallowing a package containing medication. The prison has also been advised to show evidence that there are now clear guidelines for prison staff on what to do in cases where inmates have swallowed packets containing drugs.

A spokesperson for HMP Northumberland said: “Our hearts go out to Mr Hughes and his family. All deaths in custody are investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) and ultimately brought to to a coroner’s inquest. PPO report and continue to do all we can to support those with addiction issues and to keep drugs out of prisons.”

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