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Ashworth report confirms problems with special hospitals

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 23 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:211
  1. John Warden, parliamentary correspondent
  1. BMJ

    The scandal of Ashworth Special Hospital, on Merseyside, UK, where a state of anarchy allowed mentally disordered patients to participate in a regime of drug abuse and pornography, ranks as one of the worst failures of the NHS, concluded a two year official inquiry published last week.

    Parliament was shocked by the catalogue of problems noted in the personality disorder unit at Ashworth—such as a 7year old girl being groomed for paedophile purposes during regular visits to patients—which the health secretary, Frank Dobson, described as a mess from top to bottom.

    Doctors working at Ashworth were singled out for particular criticism by the inquiry chairman, Judge Peter Fallon. At one point in Ashworth's recent history, only three of 11doctors in post were judged to be competent. The report stated: “If such levels of incompetency and poor performance had occurred in another specialty, such as general surgery, immediate and decisive action would have had to be taken.”

    The Fallon inquiry acknowledged problems in staffing high security hospitals, but stated that a self perpetuating circle of unattractive …

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