Huge payout for prison officer who ‘caught TB from Wakefield inmates’
A former prison officer has described how she has been left with lasting health problems after claiming she caught tuberculosis from prisoners.
Fiona Murphy spent six days in isolation in hospital and had to take anti-tuberculosis chemotherapy drugs for 13 months after she claims she was unknowingly exposed to the disease at HMP Wakefield in 2010.
Ms Murphy said she did not know the prisoners were suffering from TB and believes she would not have suffered so badly if she had been aware of the symptoms.
The 45-year-old, from Barnsley, has now been awarded a five-figure payout in an out-of-court settlement from the Ministry of Justice.
Ms Murphy said she was asked to help attend to four prisoners while accompanying nursing staff on their rounds at the prison.
She became ill with what she thought was flu but was diagnosed with a severe strain of TB some weeks later.
She said: “I went to a walk-in centre from work because I felt like I was going to collapse. I was exhausted and had lost my appetite completely so was drastically losing weight.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t breathe properly and was sleeping sitting up.
“I didn’t even know what the symptoms of TB were, I just thought I had the flu.”
After Ms Murphy was discharged from hospital, she was advised to stay in her house and could not return to work for several months. She said she still has not made a full recovery and no longer works for the prison service.
She said: “It has had a massive effect. I used to be quite fit and was never really ill before this but now I pick up every infection going and my breathing is not as good as it used to be.
“As far as I’m concerned the prison is the only place I could have caught it. If I had been aware of the symptoms, then it might not have been as bad.”
Rachel Brown, a clinical negligence specialist from the Slater and Gordon law firm, said: “Fiona has been left with lasting health problems as a result of having TB and it has also affected her career.
“If she had recognised the symptoms and been diagnosed earlier, she believes the effects would have been a lot less damaging and so she is keen to raise awareness and stop this happening to anyone else.”
A Slater and Gordon spokeswoman said the Ministry of Justice did not admit liability in the case.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “Incidents like this are rare. We take advice from healthcare professionals regarding all medical issues in prisons to ensure a safe working environment for staff and prisoners.
“When handling staff compensation claims, we balance discharging our duty of care with ensuring we get best value for the taxpayer.”