Covid-19: HMP Littlehey 'missed opportunities' in first reported inmate virus death

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Edwin Hillier had been sentenced for child sex offences

Opportunities to identify Covid-19 "were missed" in the treatment of the first prisoner reported to have died with the virus, a report has concluded.

Edwin Hillier, an inmate at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire, died on 22 March 2020.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report said the 84-year-old "must have contracted Covid-19 at the prison".

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it had introduced new measures at the prison since Hillier died.

Hillier was reported to have been the first inmate to have died with Covid-19, although it was later found that HMP Peterborough inmate Brett Moore died four days earlier.

In 2016, Hillier was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison for child sex offences.

That same year he was moved from HMP Bedford to HMP Littlehey - a category C male sex offenders prison.

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Image caption,
HMP Littlehey houses more than 1,000 male sex offenders

The report said Hillier had several long-term health conditions, including heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and type 2 diabetes.

He was sent to hospital with severe breathlessness on 7 February 2020 and returned to HMP Littlehey two weeks later, after having a stent inserted to open up the valves of his heart.

On 11 March, he again complained of shortness of breath and was prescribed antibiotics.

Five days later, a prison GP noted Hillier should be isolated and monitored for Covid-19.

He was not seen again by healthcare staff until 18 March, when he complained of abdominal pain.

The next day he was found to be "shaking vigorously, appeared confused and was grey in colour" and was taken to hospital where he tested positive for the virus and died on 22 March.

The following day, the first national coronavirus lockdown began, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson telling people to stay at home.

'Reasonable standard'

The report said Hillier's care in prison was equal to what he would have received in the community and "of a reasonable standard".

But it added "opportunities to identify Covid-19 were missed" and made two recommendations.

It said the governor and head of healthcare "should ensure that staff recognise the symptoms of Covid-19" and that healthcare staff should "monitor prisoners in accordance with clinical instructions".

A spokesperson for the MoJ said it had put the recommendations into place in the prison and staff had been trained on how to spot the symptoms.

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