Wolverhampton prison staff failed to call ambulance for hour as man lay dying in cell

Staff at a troubled prison failed to call an ambulance for almost an hour as a prisoner lay dying, an inquest heard.

Wolverhampton prison staff failed to call ambulance for hour as man lay dying in cell

HMP Oakwood was understaffed and 'chaotic' on the night Edward Ham died after suffering a heart attack, it was said.

Prison officers were also not trained to use a defibrillator which was locked in a cabinet.

It only emerged an ambulance had not been called when staff phoned asking where paramedics were.

Mr Ham, known by his friends and family as Steve, was declared dead in his cell at the G4S-operated prison in Featherstone.

The 54-year-old from Edgbaston suffered from high blood pressure and was taking medication to try and lower it.

He complained of chest pains around 3.30am on February 6 last year and officers monitored him throughout the night, but a doctor was not called to assess his condition.

Giving evidence at Stafford Coroners Court, prison officer Anita Duggal said: "He told me he had chest pains and when I checked him for a second time he said the pain was coming and going but that he would be okay.

"I checked him again at 4.52am and knew something was wrong because there was no response from him.

"I went in his cell after getting approval from my manager to see if there was a pulse but there wasn't."

Despite Mr Ham's condition, staff took 53 minutes before calling an ambulance.

Security officer Caroline Williams, who worked in the prison's control room at the time of Mr Ham's death, said there were not enough staff on that night and described the shift as chaotic.

She admitted there had been a lack of communication among her colleagues.

She said: "At 5.05am prison officer Gareth Robinson called me and said an ambulance was required and that he would get one. It was my understanding that he would ring for an ambulance so I left it for him to do."

Giving evidence, Mr Robinson said he thought the control room would call an ambulance while he performed CPR on Mr Ham for 50 minutes.

Staff eventually phoned West Midlands Ambulance Service asking where paramedics were and they were told an ambulance had not been requested.

Paramedic Neil Weaver received a call at 5.58am and arrived on the scene at 6.06am.

In a statement read out in court he said: "There was some confusion in the prison over when the ambulance was called and some sort of mix-up between staff on the wing and in the control room.

"They all thought one of them had called an ambulance when in fact none of them had."

Staff could not access a defibrillator as it was locked away but admitted they had not received adequate training to use one.

Prison officer Sarah Hollyhead, who was also on shift that night, said: "We were given demonstrations on defibrillators but were not allowed to test them out.

"It was my belief that there was a defibrillator available but it was locked away."

Mr Ham admitted possession with intent to supply Class A and Class B drugs in October 2012. His drugs stash was valued at more than £1.3 million and he was sentenced to six years in prison. He served part of the sentence in HMP Birmingham in Winson Green before being transferred to HMP Oakwood in November 2012.

The inquest continues.

See also:

  • Attacks on prison officers at Featherstone ‘go unpunished’

  • Oakwood prisoners looking after pets while they are locked up

  • Prison worker among four in court on Featherstone drugs charges

  • 128 calls to police in year before Oakwood jail riot

  • Midlands prison drug seizures triple in 12 months

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