A prisoner who gave birth to a still-born baby in a prison toilet suffered a ‘terrifying, painful and traumatic experience’, according to a published today. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Lucy Powell said that she would ‘never forgive the prison’.The investigation into that incident that happened in HMP Styal in June 2020 by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) found that the 30-year old might have given birth in hospital with proper clinical support and medication ‘instead of in a prison toilet with untrained staff’ had there been a proper support.
In a statement, Ms Powell said: ‘The pain of Brooke’s death will never leave me. I cannot forgive the prison or healthcare for leaving me when I was calling for help and I felt like I was dying.’
The PPO investigation report found that the prisoner did not know she was pregnant and did not believe she could be and that fellow prisoners and staff had no suspicion that she was pregnant. Her roommate, a mother of four herself, only recognised possible signs that she might be pregnant in the hours before she gave birth.
The ombudsman Sue McAllister said that she was satisfied that prison staff did not miss ‘any obvious signs’ that Ms Powell was pregnant during her three and a half months at Styal; however she did find ‘missed opportunities’ to identify that she needed urgent clinical attention in the hours before she gave birth.
The woman, who was in prison for the first time, gave birth to a baby girl – possibly at the stage of 27-31 weeks of gestation – in the toilet of her houseblock. ‘Even at a distance this is a deeply sad and distressing case,’ McAllister said.
The investigation found that a prison supervising officer made three calls to the duty nurse, raising concerns. The nurse ‘without seeing [Ms Powell] and with inadequate reference to her medical file’ concluded incorrectly that she was suffering severe stomach pain as a result of a painful period. The nurse did not go to see the prisoner.
According to the PPO, the information provided by the SO was ‘sufficient to have caused the nurse to visit [Ms Powell], and that she should have done so’. ‘Regardless of the cause, it is not acceptable that anyone should be in unexplained acute pain for several hours without proper assessment or consideration of pain relief. Had proper triage taken place, [Ms Powell] might have given birth in hospital with proper clinical support and medication instead of in a prison toilet with untrained staff.’
The Ombudsman said that it was not able to say whether the baby could have survived if the prisoner had been taken to hospital earlier that evening.
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