Broadmoor staff accused in row over new regime

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A MENTAL health charity yesterday condemned staff at Broadmoor hospital for moving towards industrial action over the introduction of a more liberal regime.

More than 650 nurses at the high- security hospital in Berkshire will be balloted over industrial action in protest at the regime under which they say patients have made at least 90 attacks on staff so far this year.

The Prison Officers' Association is also considering balloting members over industrial action at Britain's two other high-security hospitals, Rampton and Ashworth.

A new 'non-seclusion' policy allows some of Britain's most dangerous men and women more freedom inside Broadmoor. But in recent incidents, POA officials said, a psychologist was attacked while interviewing a patient, a male nurse had his ear ripped, and a female nurse was punched to the ground and kicked.

But the health charity Mind said reports had proved that seclusion or solitary confinement should not be used to punish people with severe mental health problems.

Its policy director, Liz Sayce, said: 'The association seems determined to cling on to this approach, but rather than defusing volatile situations the use of seclusion simply stokes up future problems.'

A better approach would be to improve training and support for staff and facilities for patients such as gyms to allow then to let off steam safely, she added.

Frank Mone, POA branch chairman, dismissed the Mind view and said: 'It is all very well to say that, sitting some distance away. They are not sitting there getting attacked by patients. We have seen a very 'open' regime implemented at the hospital since Christmas, which has given patients more rights than those looking after them.

'The non-seclusion policy, which has been encouraged by the director of nursing, means that patients who have lost control and become violent can no longer be locked up.

'Instead, a nurse has to stand guard on the seclusion room with the door open. Obviously, if a patient feels violent, they will attack the first person they see - and that is usually one of my members.'

Since 1 January, the rate of attacks had doubled on last year, and at least 30 per cent of 90 attacks on staff resulting in injuries were a direct result of the non-seclusion policy, he added.

A Broadmoor spokeswoman said the number of attacks by patients on staff was monitored closely by the hospital management.

Patients at Rampton in north Nottinghamshire, including the child-killer Beverley Allitt, will be allowed to carry the keys to their own cells when the 'open door' regime is introduced there next week.

Sean Farrell, secretary of the POA at Rampton, said the scheme, which aimed to treat inmates as 'ordinary humans', was not as simple as it appeared.

'It is part of a programme to introduce what management call '24- hour therapeutic care', although we would maintain that that has always been available.'