It’s not a good place to be if you’re unwell

Mr David Sellu

Surgeon Mr David Sellu, convicted for gross negligence manslaughter of a patient – overturned on appeal after a
30-month prison sentence – continues the story of his incarceration from last month.

Overall, I was disturbed by what I saw and experienced in terms of available healthcare in closed prisons.

Prison was clearly a poor place for the elderly and infirm. These Victorian buildings with their labyrinthine corridors, multiple doors and gates, narrow staircases and landings were unsuitable for people with complex social, cognitive and psychological needs, alongside their physical ones, in an overburdened system. I could see the difficulties facing the service.

The prisoners, many from low socio-economic backgrounds, put unnecessary pressure on clinic staff. I knew of inmates demanding painkillers, and it was doubtful whether most of the recipients used these medications for pain management. 

All inmates knew that stronger painkillers – Co-codamol and Tramadol – were opiate drugs in the same class as morphine and heroin. Those who could obtain these drugs did a brisk trade in them, exchanging them for tobacco, cannabis and other items. A problem for prison doctors was deciding when an inmate’s pain was genuine and when it was being used to obtain opiate-based painkillers.

Officers were inadequately trained in general healthcare and this meant that inmates with genuine physical and mental health disorders were not identified effectively. It took a long time for officers on my wing to take my swollen leg seriously; at that stage, it was impossible to rule out a DVT.