Kent: 25 workers 'poisoned' at Swaleside prison by 'inmates working in staff canteen', union says

More than two dozen staff at a prison in Kent were "deliberately poisoned" with the drug spice, a union has said.

Workers were allegedly given the narcotic by "prisoners working in the staff canteen" at HMP Swaleside in Kent, the Criminal Justice Workers Union said.

Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid, can cause dizziness, breathing difficulties, chest pain, seizures and paranoia, according to the NHS website.

Some 25 staff were "poisoned" at the men's high-security jail, union official Andy Hamlin said.

Nine ambulances attended and an emergency incident unit was set up "within the establishment", Mr Hamlin added.

Five people were taken to hospital last week, he said, although South East Coast Ambulance Service said three had needed hospital treatment.

While it is not unusual for prisoners to be working in staff canteens, they are expected to be "low-risk", Mr Hamlin commented.

That "clearly hasn't happened in this case", he added, and is calling for a "full investigation".

HM Prison and Probation Service "must do more to protect the health and safety of its staff", he said.

It is understood that none of the those affected were in a critical condition and all have since been discharged from hospital.

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A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "A number of staff were taken ill following an incident at HMP Swaleside last week but have all now returned to work.

"There is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

A South East Coast Ambulance Service spokesman said: "I can confirm that South East Coast Ambulance responded to a medical incident at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch, Sheerness, after being called at approximately 2.10pm on Thursday 9 May.

"Ambulance crews attended and worked alongside the prison medical team to assess and treat a number of patients at the scene before three were taken by ambulance to hospital for further checks."

Kent Police said officers attended to assist the ambulance service.