Would Bruno Dos Santos be alive if staff employed by private firm Serco had understood the rules? Possibly.
Is Serco to blame for the death?
That has yet to be determined. The verdict could be groundbreaking with regard to the employment of private firms to run prisons.
Healthcare staff at Thameside Prison in London were unaware that a young man in their care was detained for immigration purposes, which led to him missing a hospital appointment that might have saved his life, an inquest jury heard yesterday.
Bruno Dos Santos, 25, was detained at HMP Thameside for several months from September 2013 until May 2014, a court sitting in Dorchester was told yesterday. In May he was transferred to the Verne Immigration Removal Centre in Dorset, where he died on 4 June.
Dos Santos had a complex medical history and was taking medication for epilepsy, depression and shoulder pain. He suffered from severe epileptic fits and had dislocated both shoulders as a result of frequent seizures. In February 2014, while detained at Thameside, Dos Santos was assessed by Dr Giovanni Cocco, a consultant neurologist.
Following the appointment Dr Cocco wrote to a GP working at the prison explaining that the young man’s fits were a result of trauma after being knocked down by car aged 10. After the car accident Dos Santos was in a coma for two or three days. He then spent several months in hospital re-learning how to walk, talk and carry out basic tasks. Dr Cocco recommended Dos Santos undergo an MRI, EEG and an ECG, and that his anti-epileptic medication be increased gradually. An MRI appointment was booked for 23 February.
The court heard that Rida Kamsilla, a nurse working at Thameside, spoke to Dos Santos the day before his appointment on 23 February. When he told her about it, she told the wing officer that Dos Santos “is not going anywhere tomorrow”. She then passed the same message on to the senior nurse on duty asking for the appointment to be cancelled. Nurse Kamsilla told the court that she was following prison policy at the time, which was that patients should not be given dates regarding external appointments. This was for security reasons, she said.
Nick Brown, the barrister representing the family, suggested that Nurse Kamsilla had been “over officious” in making this decision. “It was not your decision to make,” he said. Instead, he said, she should have passed it on to another member of staff to carry out a proper risk assessment. She replied that she was simply following the policy. Brown asked if the policy was written anywhere and nurse Kamsilla replied that it was not. Brown then questioned the nurse about Dos Santos’s immigration status.
Brown: “Were you aware that he was an immigration detainee?”
Kamsilla: “No, I was not aware.”
Brown: “Were you aware of the policy on immigration detainees at that time?”
Brown then read from the Detention Services Order 2012 which states that: “Every effort must be made to keep and fulfil medical appointments of detainees, both those arranged prior to and during detention.”
The rules also state that external appointments must be considered on a case by case basis, he said. This assessment would consider factors such as the seriousness of the condition of the detainee.
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