A Northumberland prison is taking steps to provide ‘enough first-aid training’ as possible, an inquest has heard.
The statement was made during a three-day hearing at Alnwick Council Chamber this week, following the death of a 34-year-old inmate in 2012 at HMP Acklington, which is now HMP Northumberland.
It came after concerns were raised during the inquest about the length of time it had taken to administer first aid to James Dickinson, who was found hanging in his cell on the morning of June 18.
Prison records revealed that on that particular day, 29 of the 202 uniformed staff were first-aid trained. Only one trained officer was in Mr Dickinson’s block at the time of the incident – although he was unable to carry out medical assistance because he had flashbacks to a previous traumatic experience when he arrived at the scene.
A prison service report into the incident branded a six-minute delay in administering first aid – from when the body was found to healthcare nurses arriving – as ‘unacceptable’ and stated that to have only one first-aid trained prison officer on the wing was ‘insufficient to provide an appropriate emergency response’.
Rob Nixon, from the prison, said that the 29 first-aid trained members of staff had exceeded the minimum health and safety requirements. He added it had been unfortunate that the trained officer on Mr Dickinson’s block was unable to fulfil his medical duties because of ‘personal circumstances’. Officers at the scene had checked for vital signs of life. He told the inquest about new regulations which have come into place recently, adding: “At the start of the year, a prison service instruction was released about first aid, with an action to have first-aid cover for 365 days of the year, and for 24 hours.
“Our drive is to ensure that we have got cover. We are making good headway in insuring that the right people are trained in first aid and there will be first-aid cover on top of the healthcare provision. We are working towards an action plan and we will try to provide enough first-aid training and refresher training as possible, although that is down to logistics.”
The inquest also heard that not all of the officers had radios on the day of the incident and there were not enough devices to go round.
It meant that when prison officer Robert Taylor, who didn’t have a radio, found Mr Dickinson hanging, he had to call to a prisoner to alert staff to a Code Blue – referring to a person with breathing difficulties.
Mr Nixon said that certain tasks required the use of a radio and it was still possible that staff could have to rely on prisoners making a similar alert.
The inquest also heard that there had been a delay in calling an ambulance, which wasn’t contacted until 10 minutes after Mr Dickinson was found. Mr Nixon explained: “On the day of the incident, the protocol was for healthcare to go to the scene and make an assesment about whether an ambulance was needed. Now, it is mandatory for an ambulance to be contacted when a Code Blue is called, prior to a call to healthcare.”
The jury concluded that Mr Dickinson, originally from Newcastle, deliberately took his own life.