Belfast Telegraph

Ombudsman calls for changes after death of prisoner

The Prisoner Ombudsman, Pauline McCabe yesterday made a total of five recommendations following her investigation into the death of an inmate.

Paul Henderson (59) died in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry while in the custody of Magilligan Prison. Henderson, who was from Craigavon, started a 12-year prison sentence in 2004 at Maghaberry Prison but was moved to Magilligan in 2007.

He was diagnosed with liver cancer in December 2008 and died on January 26 last year.

The investigation by the Prisoner Ombudsman was as a result of concerns raised by the prisoner's wife about the length of time it took for her husband's condition to be diagnosed.

She also questioned her husband missing a number of important hospital appointments because of staffing and transportation problems and raised the issue of why her husband wasn't transferred to Maghaberry Prison where he would have been closer to his family.

In a detailed 78-page report into her findings, Mrs McCabe gave a chronological account of the medical care given to Mr Henderson over his incarceration and possible explanations as to why he was not moved nearer his home as he drew close to death.

Mrs McCabe said she examined any relevant healthcare issues and assessed the clinical care afforded by the Prison Service to see whether any change in Prison Service operational methods, policy, practice or management arrangements could help prevent a similar death in the future.

She also said she ensured that Mr Henderson’s family had the opportunity to raise any concerns and that these are taken into account in the investigation to inform the Coroner of the findings.

The Prisoner Ombudsman has recommended that the Prison Servie and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) take action to ensure that all hospitals in Northern Ireland are aware of the correct process for notifying prisoner appointments and consideration is given in respect to the cancellation of appointments.

She further recommended that the Prison Service and SEHSCT review their process for booking a prisoner escort group for hospital appointments, and that when appointments are missed or rescheduled these are fully documented.

Finally she recommended the Prison Service reviews arrangement and responsibilties for ensuring family members are provided with accurate and timely information when a prisoner is transferred to hospital in serious circumstances.

The Prison Service said once it has considered the report it will provide the Ombudsman with a response indicating the steps to be taken by the service within set timeframes to deal with the Ombudsman's recommendations.

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