HMP Nottingham prisoner with 'complex medical history' died in hospital after collapsing

A general view of stone carvings on the front of The Council House in Old Market Square, Nottingham city centre.
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

An inquest has been opened into the death of a Nottingham Prison inmate who had a "complex medical history". Charleston John Cullen died on May 25, 2022, at Nottingham City Hospital while he was a prisoner at HMP Nottingham.

The 54-year-old's provisional cause of death was ischaemic heart disease. An inquest began into Cullen's death on Monday, June 24, at Nottingham Council House in front of a jury formed of 10 members.

Evidence heard during the hearing described how Cullen had heart issues, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which, according to the NHS, is a "relatively common heart condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time".

Get the latest news straight to your phone by joining us on WhatsApp

The inquest heard that Cullen struggled with a condition that causes difficult or laboured breathing. An assessment during a healthcare appointment on May 5, 2022, found he had to stop and breathe after walking for about 100 yards.

Cullen was also using a Zimmer frame to walk as he was at risk of falling. Coroner Simon Burge and the jurors were told "nothing was making it obvious that he would have an imminent deterioration at the time of the appointment".

The inmate had a history of "two or three" suicide attempts and he suffered from depression. Daniel Akers, a paramedic who looked after Cullen between April 30 and May 18, saw Cullen in his cell after he coughed up "bright red blood with lumps in it".

The paramedic told the court Cullen was not complaining about any symptoms at the time of the medical visit. The hearing was told how Cullen's cell was in F wing, which holds up to 100 men in 77 cells. Cullen was in a single cell.

The court heard how Cullen refused any help, which "was his right". Apart from his blood pressure being a bit low, there were no other concerns regarding his health at the time of the appointment. On May 9, he reported chest pain and collapsed on the floor which led to an ambulance attending prison.

The court heard how the response was appropriate and Cullen had first-degree heart block, which is the least serious and may not cause any symptoms. He was taken to hospital "promptly" but he self discharged on May 11.

He also reported not being able to feel his hands and an electrocardiogram (ECG) test suggested he was having a heart attack but he was not showing any obvious symptoms, Mr Akers told the court. In a statement that was part of the evidence for the investigation into Cullen's death, Mr Akers said: "He was an unwell man with a very complex medical history.

"The medical team at HMP Nottingham did their best and could not have done any more for Mr Cullen. We did everything we could as a team. I would like to say to the family of Mr Cullen that he was always polite and respectful and was nice to the staff."

Cullen's family did not attend the hearing on June 24. The inquest continues.