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Cancer-stricken Stafford prisoner was nursed on the bottom bunk of his cell as there was nowhere else for him

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: August 22, 2014

Staffordshire South coroner Andrew Haigh

Staffordshire South coroner Andrew Haigh

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A STAFFORD prisoner with terminal cancer was sent back to his cell to be treated by struggling prison staff and nurses as there was nowhere else for him to go, an inquest heard.

Richard Tunnicliffe, 72, was nursed on a bottom bunk by overstretched medical and prison staff at the Gaol Road site.

His death prompted investigations into why there was no care available at other prisons which provide the round-the-clock medical help not in operation at Stafford. Two reviews are now under way.

The inquest in Cannock heard yesterday that Mr Tunnicliffe had been reluctant to admit to staff that he had been unwell.

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The alarm was raised when his cellmate reported blood in the bathroom but despite questions from nurses Mr Tunnicliffe insisted he was well.

But on December 31 last year Stafford Prison nurse Linda Mooney was called to Mr Tunnicliffe’s cell after officers found blood in the toilet area.

Nurse Mooney said he needed urgent treatment and he was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire where a scan confirmed he had bladder cancer.

He under went surgery and was discharged from hospital but as Stafford Prison has no full-time medical care available it was felt Mr Tunnicliffe needed to be transferred elsewhere.

Calls were made to other prisons in the area, including Dovegate and Birmingham but none were able to take him. As he was blocking a vital bed at University Hospital prison staff had no option but to bring him back to Stafford.

“He needed help with personal care and was being nursed on a bottom bunk,” said Nurse Mooney.

“There were two nurses on duty. The other nurse did her best to cover the 730 prisoners and I looked after Mr Tunnicliffe. I stayed later in the evenings to help him.”

He was examined by a GP on January 27, who found he was dehydrated and suffering very low blood pressure. Mr Tunnicliffe was then taken to Stafford Hospital and transferred to Katharine House Hospice on February 1. He died on February 19.

Dr John Chesworth, medical adviser to NHS England, said there were two reviews taking place into systems and practices in transferring or placing prisoners needing healthcare.

Staffordshire South coroner Andrew Haigh recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

He added: “I don’t propose sending a report. The concerns have been identified and investigations carried out.”

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