• Family “appalled” at lack of procedures at Pennine House
A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has criticised the medical care of Tahir Mehmood, a 43 year old man from Pakistan who died at Pennine House Short Term Holding Centre, Manchester Airport, just two days before he was due to fly home.
The PPO’s clinical care review concluded that Tahir Mehmood’s care fell below the standard he could have been expected to have received from NHS care in the community. Mehmood’s brother-in-law told the PPO investigator that Tahir, who died at Pennine House in July 2013, felt no-one at the centre had understood what he was trying to tell them when he became ill. A post mortem showed that his death was due to coronary heart disease.
The report from the Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen, dated June 2014, is due to be published here. In keeping with PPO policy, publication was delayed until after the Inquest. Last week Manchester Coroner NIgel Meadows concluded that Mehmood had died of natural causes.
The PPO report makes five recommendations which have all been accepted by the Home Office.
In his introduction to the report, Nigel Newcomen says that although Mehmood’s death appears to have been sudden and unexpected there were some lessons to be learned.
“He spoke very little English and I am concerned that a professional interpretation service was not used to help obtain a medical history when he arrived at the centre or when he reported feeling unwell,” he wrote.
“The clinical assessment shortly before his death was not appropriately recorded, his case was not discussed with a GP and neither was a referral to hospital considered. The emergency response was poorly coordinated and an ambulance was not called immediately as it should have been.”
The Ombudsman was also concerned that the initial contact with Tahir Mehmood’s family after Tahir’s death was not handled more sensitively by employees of Tascor, which runs Pennine House. (Tascor is a division of the Capita outsourcing group).
Cheryl Haines, the mother-in-law of Nadeem Iqbal Gondal, Tahir Mehmood’s brother-in-law, said the family were told about Tahir’s death in a phone call from a Manchester Airport customer service officer. He was not employed by Tascor or the UK Border Agency but was asked by Pennine House staff to break the news to the family because he spoke Urdu.
The PPO report says it was “inappropriate” to ask the customer service officer to notify Mehmood's family about his death, and that this is something which is usually done by the police.
Cheryl said: “When Nadeem received the phone call from the customer service officer, we couldn't believe they were talking about Tahir. A few of us went to Pennine House but we weren't allowed in because the police were carrying out an investigation.”
In keeping with normal PPO practice, the family and the Coroner received copies of the PPO report before the inquest.
Cheryl Haines added: “We were appalled when we received the copy of the PPO report as there did not seem to be any procedures in place. This is a holding facility for people who are detained, there should be proper procedures covering all detention centres.”
She went on: “We knew all these things had gone wrong, that there had been a problem with communication because Tahir did not speak much English, and there was initial confusion about whether it was a medical emergency. We were very disappointed that some of the detail in the PPO report did not come out in the inquest.”
The report’s recommendations to the Director General of Immigration Enforcement relate to:
• Interpreting Services
• The maintenance of medical records
• Guidance on seeking the input of a GP and when to use the emergency service
• A protocol to be introduced at all immigration detention centres setting out staff responsibilities in an emergency
• Staff liaison with families
For more information, see https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom
Or contact: Kath Grant 07758386208