Ash­worth se­cu­rity ‘rig­or­ously tested’

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Student Life - BY KATE LALLY kate.lally@trin­i­tymir­ @kate­lal­lyx

ASH­WORTH Hos­pi­tal in Maghull is one of just three high-se­cu­rity psy­chi­atric fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try but just how se­cure is it?

One of Bri­tain’s most no­to­ri­ous killers, Ian Brady, was de­tained at the hos­pi­tal for more than 30 years.

The site pro­vides treat­ment for pa­tients who pose a grave dan­ger to them­selves or to other peo­ple, with many - but not all - trans­ferred from prison.

Many will go back to the prison sys­tem once treated, to serve the rest of their sen­tences, with the av­er­age stay fall­ing in re­cent times to around six years.

Up to 288 pa­tients are treated at the psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal at any one time and they live in a se­ries of 14 sin­gle-storey semi-de­tached wards spread across the site, clus­tered around wide open green spa­ces.

Those liv­ing nearby, in east Maghull, will be aware that Ash­worth Hos­pi­tal rou­tinely sounds its siren ev­ery Mon­day at 9am - as it has done for sev­eral decades as part of its statu­tory duty to en­sure safety and se­cu­rity mea­sures are in place.

Hos­pi­tal bosses say the site is highly se­cure and that no­body has ever es­caped from the mod­ern fa­cil­ity, which is sur­rounded by a large wall.

Vis­i­tors have to go through air­port-style se­cu­rity, are searched by snif­fer dogs and have to go through sev­eral sets of air-locked doors, which close be­hind them be­fore the next one opens.

A spokesper­son for Mersey Care NHS Foun­da­tion Trust, which runs Ash­worth, said: “All of our pro­ce­dures to en­sure the se­cu­rity of the hos­pi­tal and pub­lic safety are reg­u­larly tested, in­clud­ing the alarm.

“There has been a spe­cial­ist hos­pi­tal in Maghull for 100 years and the lo­cal com­mu­nity are fa­mil­iar with Ash­worth and this alarm test, the sound­ing of which has been tak­ing place since the for­mer Park Lane Hos­pi­tal (Ash­worth’s pre­de­ces­sor) was built in the 1970s.

“We also have a tried and tested pro­to­col over all as­pects of safety and se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing agree­ments with Mersey­side Po­lice should an es­cape be at­tempted – how­ever, we would like to re­as­sure the pub­lic that no-one has ever es­caped from Ash­worth Hos­pi­tal.

“The hos­pi­tal has lev­els of perime­ter se­cu­rity which are com­pa­ra­ble to a Cat­e­gory B prison, and we treat se­ri­ously all as­pects of the safety, run­ning and care we pro­vide here as one of the coun­try’s three high se­cure hos­pi­tals.”

Mersey Care, the health body which runs the site, was rated ‘Good’ over­all by Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion in­spec­tors in June 2017.

But two staff were sacked in re­cent years for the way they al­legedly re­strained a vi­o­lent pa­tient, a de­ci­sion which sparked strike ac­tion by staff in protest in Novem­ber 2015.

It has been the sub­ject of two sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­quiries into how pa­tients were treated in the past - the BlomCooper in­quiry in 1992 and Fal­lon in­quiry in 1998.

And it was also caught up in the Jimmy Sav­ile sex abuse scan­dal, who was re­ported to have sex­u­ally abused sev­eral pa­tients while vis­it­ing in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ash­worth Hos­pi­tal in Maghull from the air

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