Broadmoor facing £3m bill to fix security flaws at psychiatric hospital

Anti-fraud investigation launched into contracts as staff and local residents fear for their safety

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Broadmoor Hospital must spend £3m on a new CCTV security system after serious flaws were discovered when the network monitoring the perimeter fence collapsed in 2013. The breakdown means that the Berkshire psychiatric hospital, home to some of the country’s most notorious criminals including the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and the Stockwell Strangler, Kenneth Erskine, broke strict government guidelines regulating high-security hospitals. West London Mental Health Trust, which runs Broadmoor, asked the Department of Health permission effectively to relax the strict criteria required for a high secure licence while it tried to fix the problem.

Fears have since grown among staff that the CCTV system, vital for protecting the safety of staff and patients as well as local residents, is not fit for purpose. A member of staff and a patient were physically assaulted in two separate incidents in December, resulting in the launch of two Grade 1 investigations – the highest serious-incident category, under which trusts must complete findings within 45 days.

The mess surrounding the CCTV network will add to growing concerns about governance standards and chaotic management at the trust. News that the trust is currently subject to a major anti-fraud investigation concerning a £3.9m overspend identified in the trust’s capital, estates and facilities (CE&F) department, responsible for all major infrastructure projects, was released last month, with officials attempting to work out how so many unfunded or unapproved projects, all of which have now been stopped, were approved. The trust’s chairman, Nigel McCorkell, has also announced his resignation halfway through his second four-year term.

Broadmoor’s security camera problems were compounded after it was discovered that the process to find a contractor to fix the difficulties was seriously flawed. According to official rules, any NHS contract worth more than £111,676 must be open and a contract notice placed in the Official Journal of the European Union.

 

 

 

However, it was found that the process, led by the former CE&F director Eric Munro, was flawed. As a result, the maintenance contract was cancelled and the tender reopened after the trust received legal advice saying the deal was “at risk” and could be challenged. Responses to the new tendering process are due by mid-March.

A security contractor had already signed a £250,000 deal and was attempting to deal with the CCTV issues before the tendering problem was discovered late last year by the trust’s director, Rachael Moench.

A senior source at the trust, which has applied for foundation status, admitted: “In basic terms, the trust failed to maintain the CCTV systems and, in October 2013, the whole system crashed, leaving the perimeter CCTV inoperable. As the hospital is high security, it needs to have certain licences in place and a working CCTV system capable of meeting government legislation, and approved systems is one of the criteria for being awarded a high secure licence. The CCTV system was not able to meet these requirements and the trust asked for a derogation... while they sort it out.”

The camera problems are understood to relate to its use of an obsolete computer software package that was incompatible with the cameras. Trust sources said the “matrix system”, which all hospital cameras feed into and from which staff can switch viewpoints, keeps on failing.

CCTV problems were also discovered at The Paddock Centre, Broadmoor’s £36m unit, opened in 2005 to accommodate sex offenders with a dangerous and severe personality disorder (DSPD). Whether DSPD patients have served their sentence or not, they are held indefinitely as they are considered too dangerous to release. The Paddock’s internal CCTV system within the ward areas is a separate system to Broadmoor’s external CCTV for the perimeter fence.

At Broadmoor, if anyone gets close to the perimeter fence, the CCTV is meant to automatically and rapidly zoom to that point. However, the fence alert system did not work with Broadmoor’s existing system, forcing staff to manually move cameras to the area where an alarm had gone off, which could take much longer or [the incident] be missed altogether, further breaching government guidelines.

“The CCTV system has had several million pounds spent on it over the past year, but the main problem is the matrix system,” the source said. “The trust should have replaced this, but chose to spend millions on cameras instead.

“It breaks down on a daily basis and has to be manned 24/7 by staff, which breaches the high secure licence.”

Broadmoor is in the middle of a £242m redevelopment, with a new 16-ward, 234-bed unit set to be completed in 2017. Leeanne McGee, Broadmoor’s executive director, is understood to want Broadmoor to become independent from the trust because of what she believes are leadership failings.

One trust source said: “We’ve spent millions on a system that just does not work.”

Luciana Berger MP, Labour's Shadow Public Health Minister, said: "It is not acceptable for a high secure facility to break the terms of their license. Jeremy Hunt is directly responsible for high secure facilities and he will be aware of this case. He needs to urgently answer why a derogation for Broadmoor was granted. Given the importance of CCTV in maintaining clinical and physical safety he also needs to outline what his Department are doing to ensure that Broadmoor is safe and secure for its patients, staff and the public." 

Mr Munro, now joint director of estates and facilities at St George’s University Hospitals in south west London, declined to comment. An investigation into CCTV concerns has been added to the ongoing independent anti-fraud investigation.

A Trust spokesperson said: “The hospital maintains the highest standards of security at all times. It has not breached its licence at any time. The Broadmoor Hospital CCTV system was last upgraded in 2001. The system was fit for purpose when installed in 2001, however the cost of maintaining an ageing system was judged to be more expensive than replacing it with a new one. The £3m represents the cost of a replacement CCTV system plus maintenance.

“The tendering process is still on-going and is not illegal. We are undertaking a lawful process under OJEU. However, the trust realised there was an issue with the original process, took advice and extended the process. We are looking into issues that have arisen in respect of [the tendering process] and await the findings of that ongoing investigation.

The DoH said it had been made aware of problems with Broadmoor’s CCTV network and been reassured a “robust system” is in place.

Comments