Prisoner reported falls and chest pain in weeks before death

Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon. Picture: Steve Williams.

Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A prisoner who reported a number of falls and chest pains in the weeks before his death should have been referred to hospital sooner, an inquest heard.

A review into the death of Sidney Thorpe carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsmen praised the level of care provided by prison staff, but added that the 81-year-old should have been referred to hospital “more promptly”.

Mr Thorpe, a prisoner at HMP Littlehey, in Perry, died on July 16, a day after being admitted to Hinchingbrooke Hospital complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath.

At inquest held at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon, on Thursday, heard that Mr Thorpe, who was jailed in 2011 for 14 years, had reported several falls and pains in his chest to his GP in the days and weeks leading up to his death.

On one occasion he was given antibiotics for a suspected broken rib and on another he was sent for a CT scan, although it “did not show anything significant”.

On July 15 he complained of being short of breath and was taken to Hinchingbrooke but his condition deteriorated rapidly and he died the following morning.

Dr Martin Goddard, pathologist at Papworth Hospital, carried out a post mortem and subsequently discovered a number of cancerous tumours in Mr Thorpe’s liver, spleen and brain that had gone undetected.

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Dr Goddard added however, that, even if the tumours had been discovered by GPs earlier, the cancer was too far advanced and only palliative care would have been possible.

Dr Frank Voeten, who carried out a clinical review into the case of behalf of the ombudsmen, said in his report: “[Mr Thorpe] should have been referred to hospital more promptly after he showed continued symptoms. However, his death would have been inevitable because of his underlying cancer which was not picked up until after his death.

“Prisoners who report ongoing health ailments should be referred to hospital for further treatment without delay, although I note that in this case it would not have resulted in any other outcome.”

Dr Sam Bass, assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough concluded that Mr Thorpe died as a result of natural causes.