Ashworth security ‘rigorously tested’
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.