Wayland prison staff tried to resuscitate ‘clearly dead’ inmate

HMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt

HMP Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Attempts to resuscitate a prisoner who had been “clearly dead” for some time have been described in a report as “disappointing” and “inappropriate”.

An independent investigation was launched by The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman after Graham Birchwood, 65, died of natural causes at HMP Wayland, in Griston, on September 9.

Mr Birchwood was serving a 32-year sentence for the murder of his ex-wife, Sharon Birchwood, and he arrived at HMP Wayland in May 2019.

The inmate had several long-term health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The post-mortem report concluded that Mr Birchwood died of ischemic heart disease.

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But in the report, it revealed that staff had failed to put appropriate care plans in place.

On the day of his death, they had also failed to notice Mr Birchwood lying face down on his cell floor, during ‘roll check’ two and half hours before.

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Sue McAllister CB Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, wrote: “The clinical reviewer found that the care Mr Birchwood received at Wayland was not equivalent to that which he could have expected to receive in the community.

“Staff failed to put appropriate care plans in place to manage his heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“Mr Birchwood was found dead on his cell floor on the morning of September 9. There were signs that he had been dead for some time.

“I am concerned that the member of staff who carried out the roll check two and a half hours before, failed to see that Mr Birchwood was lying face down on his cell floor.”

When Mr Birchwood was eventually discovered by staff, they then “failed to call a medical emergency code which led to a delay in the emergency response.

“While it made no difference to the outcome for Mr Birchwood, any delay in a future medical emergency could be critical,” the report said.

Although an officer at the scene said he could not find a pulse and there were no signs of life, “he was cold and rigor mortis appeared to have set in”, when a nurse arrived she reported that staff had started CPR.

The ombudsman called it “disappointing” that they attempted to resuscitate Mr Birchwood when he had “clearly been dead for some time”.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Our condolences remain with the family of Mr Birchwood.”

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