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  •  »  JURY CRITICISE THE ‘MULTIPLE SYSTEM FAILURES’ IN THE CARE OF VULNERABLE UGANDAN PRISONER SARAH NAMALA AT THE CONCLUSION OF HER INQUEST

JURY CRITICISE THE ‘MULTIPLE SYSTEM FAILURES’ IN THE CARE OF VULNERABLE UGANDAN PRISONER SARAH NAMALA AT THE CONCLUSION OF HER INQUEST

PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release 12 November 2010

A jury hearing evidence at Mid Kent Coroner’s Court yesterday returned a critical narrative verdict highlighting serious failings in the healthcare provided to Sarah Namala at HMP Cookham Wood.

The jury found that there were multiple system failures at all levels in the provision of her healthcare needs. In particular they stated that the reduction in her epilepsy medication shortly before her death should have been noticed, documented and acted upon.  Sarah’s cause of death was confirmed as sudden death in epilepsy (SUDEP). The jury were unable to agree whether neglect had contributed to her death.

 

Sarah Namala, aged 44, died in her cell at HMP Cookham Wood on 15 October 2006.  She was a Ugandan national who claimed asylum in the UK having fled torture.  Sarah had a history of mental health issues and suffered a number of fits while in custody.  Despite inconclusive investigations into the cause of the fits, a prison doctor prescribed her anticonvulsant medication to treat epilepsy in December 2005, in contrast to guidance issued by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004. After some delay, Sarah saw a consultant neurologist in August 2006 but they had not been provided with up to date or correct information about Sarah’s fits and her epilepsy went undiagnosed. Three weeks before her death Sarah’s anticonvulsant medication was accidentally halved. Expert evidence heard at the inquest stated that this could have increased her risk of seizure by 40% to 60%.

Marcia Willis Stewart, solicitor for the family, said:

Sarah’s case brings to light the poor care afforded to epileptics and the chaotic nature of prison health care. We believe that had Sarah received appropriate care despite the risks of SUDEP she would have been in keeping with her plans repatriated to Uganda and reunited with her mother and children.

 

Deborah Coles, Co-Director of INQUEST, said:

 

The failure of HMP Cookham Wood to provide Sarah, a prisoner with significant physical and mental health needs, with adequate health care is deeply alarming and inexcusable. Equally shocking and distressing for the family is that the Head of Healthcare Services at the prison still believes, despite the evidence and jury’s verdict, that Sarah was afforded the best possible care.

Sarah Namala’s family were represented by barrister Fiona Paterson of 3 Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, instructed by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Marcia Willis Stewart of Birnberg Peirce and Partners.

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