A woman gave birth to a stillborn baby in “shocking circumstances” in a prison toilet after a nurse mistook her job for period pain, a watchdog investigation has revealed.
Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) Sue McAllister said staff made a “serious error in judgment” by not visiting an inmate or not properly assessing her after she started bleeding and said she was in pain – mistakenly deciding that she was having a painful period.
The mother, Louise Powell, said she “cannot forgive” in prison what happened.
The 30-year-old didn’t know she was pregnant and didn’t believe she could be, according to a report released Tuesday.
Fellow inmates and staff at HMP Styal had “no suspicion” that this was the case until the baby girl was born prematurely – possibly between 27 and 31 weeks old – in June 2020 in the ward toilet. her mother’s cell phone from Cheshire Prison.
The findings come just months after a damning report revealed how a newborn baby died after a teenage girl gave birth alone in a cell at Europe’s largest women’s prison, HMP Bronzfield in Middlesex, despite the call from staff for help.
In that report, Ms McAllister said the mother had had a “terrifying, painful and traumatic experience” and described the case as “deeply sad and distressing”.
Prison staff called the nurse on duty three times to express concerns about the inmate for more than two hours but, without visiting or properly assessing her, “mistakenly concluded that she was bleeding and had severe stomach pain from a painful period ”.
The report adds: “Whatever the cause, it is not acceptable for someone to suffer from acute unexplained pain for several hours without proper assessment or consideration of pain relief. “
Ms McAllister is unable to say whether the baby would have survived if her mother had been taken to hospital. But his report adds: “We consider that this should be determined by a court on the basis of expert opinions commissioned for this purpose. “
While confident that prison staff did not miss any “obvious signs” that she was pregnant during the three and a half months she was behind bars, there were “missed opportunities” to identify that she was pregnant. needed urgent clinical attention in the hours leading up to her delivery, Ms. McAllister said.
In a statement to BBC Newsnight, Ms Powell said: ‘The pain of Brooke’s death will never leave me. I cannot forgive the prison for leaving me when I called for help and felt like I was dying. I had a medical emergency and should have been given emergency help instead, I was left. I want justice done for Brooke so that no other woman has to experience this horror in prison.
Kate Paradine, executive director of the Women in Prison charity, said the latest findings were “another example of catastrophic prison health care failure” and claimed that prisons “are not safe for people to use. women”.
Prisons Minister Victoria Atkins said: “The tragic events detailed in this report simply should never happen to a woman or a child, and my deepest condolences go out to the mother. We have already implemented the report’s recommendations and significant improvements have been made to the care received by pregnant women in detention.
“We are also looking to better screen for pregnancies in prisons so that no woman falls through the cracks. But there is clearly a lot more to be done to ensure that pregnant women in prison receive the same support as those in the prison. community – something that I will continue to prioritize.
The NHS said it had taken “swift steps” to “offer pregnancy tests to all women upon arrival in prison” and that staff are trained to spot the first signs of labor and “know what” to deal with unexpected childbirth ”- measures which were among a series of recommendations made in the report.
Spectrum Community Health CIC, which manages the prison’s health services, accepts the report’s findings. A spokesperson said she was “fully committed to ensuring that lessons are learned and that the report’s recommendations are recognized and implemented in the wake of this tragic incident.”
For more stories about where you live, visit InYourZone.