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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK


Health

High security hospitals share £18.2m

Ashworth was the centre of a drugs, paedophile and porn scandal

England's three high security hospitals are to share an £18.2m payout to improve safety, training and staffing levels.

In its full published response to the Fallon inquiry into Ashworth high security hospital on Merseyside, the government has announced extra funding for additional frontline staff, security improvements, modernisation plans and capital funding.

The move follows its initial response to the inquiry into Ashworth's personality disorder unit (PDU) following allegations about drugs and alcohol, availability of pornographic material, possible paedophile activity and financial irregularities at the centre.

Some £700,000 will go into implementing the Ashworth Action Plan, drawn up following the scandal.

'Shocking'

In a statement released on Friday, Health Secretary Frank Dobson said: "The shortfalls in security identified in Peter Fallon's report shocked me.

"Immediate action was taken following publication to bring Ashworth PDU back into line. Senior management changes were made, an action plan, was produced and further progress is being closely monitored."

He repeated that Ashworth and other high security hospitals would not close, despite the Fallon inquiry's recommendation that they should.

He said: "Ashworth, along with Rampton and Broadmoor, provide an important service for people requiring psychiatric care, but in a hight security environment.

"For years, these hospitals have suffered from a culture of isolation, setting them apart from the rest of the NHS and this is wrong."

He pledged that the hospitals would be "brought back into the NHS fold" so that high security psychiatric services would be treated "in the same manner as all other services provided by the mainstream NHS".

The government's response to the Fallon inquiry includes:

  • New directions and guidance on tightening security at high security hospitals
  • A review of security
  • Publication of a Social Services Inspectorate report into Ashworth
  • New guidance making clear when children can visit patients at high security hospitals

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders welcomed the emphasis on staff training and better security arrangements.

But it wants to see the existing hospitals replaced by smaller units for people deemed a serious risk to society.

It says these should be integrated properly with low and medium security units.

Director of policy Paul Cavandino said: "Now is the time to establish the high security services that we need for the future, rather than work with the unhelpful legacy of the past."



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11 May 99†|†Health
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