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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Evidence of drug taking"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 May, 2000, 04:38 GMT 05:38 UK
Security clampdown at mental hospitals
Ashworth Mental Hospital
Ashworth Hospital: Report found drug abuse and security lapses
Patients at the country's most secure mental hospitals should be randomly drug tested and locked in their rooms at night, according to a former head of the prison service.

Sir Richard Tilt's report recommends tightening security measures at Broadmoor, Rampton, and Ashworth high security mental hospitals, where some of the country's most dangerous individuals are housed.

The report also calls for inmates' telephone calls to be recorded, random searches of patient quarters and improvements to perimeter and internal security systems.

The government is expected to accept the report's recommendations and will meet with medical staff and managers to discuss how to implement the new measures.


Sir Richard Tilt
Sir Richard Tilt's report recommends sweeping changes

At present high risk patients are locked in their wards at night but are free to move within those areas.

There is concern among some of the hospital staff that some of the recommended measures are unnecessary and could heighten tension and make treatment more difficult.

But ministers will respond by saying public safety is paramount.

Last year a report into Ashworth high security mental hospital - ordered by former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell in 1997 - uncovered a catalogue of drug abuse, widely available pornography, poor patient care and security lapses.

The Ashworth inquiry was ordered following allegations of paedophilia, pornography, drug and alcohol abuse at the hospital.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson said the report by Peter Fallon QC on the Personality Disorder Unit (PDU) at the hospital in Maghull, Merseyside, presented a "shameful" picture.

The government promised extra funding for additional frontline staff, security improvements, modernisation plans and capital funding in response to the Fallon inquiry.

In July last year it was announced the three hospitals would share an 18.2m payout to improve safety, training and staffing levels.

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11 May 99 | Health
Ashworth: No easy answer
15 Jan 99 | Health
Last chance for Ashworth
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