MPs demand closure of Britain's special hospitals

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The closure of Britain's top security hospitals - Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth - was called for in a report yesterday by a committee of MPs.

The closure of Britain's top security hospitals - Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth - was called for in a report yesterday by a committee of MPs.

The Commons Health Select Committee said they were outmoded and should be replaced by eight smaller units to provide better security and more appropriate care.

The hospitals, housing some of the most dangerous offenders, have been attacked over embarrassing security lapses, brutal treatment and mismanagement. This month a dangerous patient at Broadmoor was found to have taped confidential clinical meetings.

Experts have argued since the late 1980s that the culture of the institutions, which are viewed more as prisons than hospitals, is beyond reform and that they should be shut. In 1994 the Government commissioned an internal review which called for the hospitals to be cut in size and their patients transferred to smaller units but ministers shelved the main recommendations. In 1999 the Fallon inquiry into Ashworth - after a girl of nine and pornography had been smuggled into the hospital - said managers were "totally unable to control the institution" and recommended it should close.

Yesterday the MPs said that, despite millions spent by government on the hospitals, reform was "probably not workable". More than 1,300 patients are held in the hospitals, at a cost of £100,000 per patient a year. The MPs say: "We are deeply concerned as to the human-rights implications of patients staying far longer than they should in the higher levels of security."

Based on its inquiry into NHS mental-health provision, the committee urged the Government to back community care, which it said had been misrepresented as having failed. It opposed plans to allow detention of people with personality disorders but who had not committed a crime.

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