Hospital where staff can never relax: Martin Whitfield reports from Broadmoor where nurses must remain vigilant at all times to guard against the risk of violence

THE ROOM in which Orville Blackwood died is in the most modern part of Broadmoor hospital.

Like others in Abingdon ward, it consists of a moulded plastic bed, a moulded bookcase and little else. Private lavatory and washing facilities are equally functional.

The window, made up of a succession of reinforced glass panels four or five inches wide, opens across a courtyard garden. Fresh air flows in freely.

A common room, a television room, an exercise room and a dining room make up the remainder of the purpose-built accommodation for 20 of the most dangerous and mentally disturbed men in the country.

The new building contrasts with the older parts of Broadmoor where slopping out, high walls, iron bars and a lack of light are the norm. The appearance there is a peculiar cross between an old hospital and an old prison.

A group of visiting Russian psychiatrists, including the new head of Moscow's Serbsky Centre for Forensic Psychiatry, said the new Broadmoor buildings were typical of the best equivalent accommodation they had seen during tours of Germany and Holland.

The female high-security ward remains old-style Broadmoor, but the hospital is undergoing a pounds 20m refurbishment programme, and the women's ward is next on the list.

Patients placed in the secure wards are considered the least stable of Broadmoor's 500 residents, 100 of whom are women.

They all have records of extreme violence, murder, and manslaughter. Many will have some form of sexual deviation. Admission to Broadmoor, one of three special psychiatric hospitals - Rampton in Nottinghamshire, and Ashworth, Liverpool, are the others - is decided solely on grounds of potential danger to the public.

More than 80 per cent of inmates are schizophrenic with 'voices' liable to tell them to attack other patients or members of staff. One female patient 'in love' with a nurse wrote to her recently saying that the hospital's protection would not be enough and described in detail that eventually she would find her alone and kill her.

Assaults, such as being caught from behind in attempted strangulation, or using dining cutlery as weapons, are relatively common. Each item of cutlery is counted out and counted back at meal times.

Some patients have to be watched continuously 24 hours a day, and glass viewing panels are fitted to each bedroom door. Attempted suicide is as likely as attempted assault, and a routine regime is for observation every 15 minutes.

Patients spend years in secure wards before they progress to other wards where behaviour, although still unpredictable, is more stable.

Nursing such patients is a team effort between psychiatrists, social workers and the nurses themselves. Calming techniques and a cool manner are essential and Broadmoor is an intense training ground for psychiatric nurses.

In the most secure wards there are almost as many staff as patients. The ratios are needed for constant vigilance as nurses can never fully relax because of the ever-present risk of violence.

Like psychiatrists, they feel badly portrayed as either weakly pandering to the whims of the criminally insane or as bullies mistreating those in their care.

Alan Franey, the general manager, is looking forward to the completion of the refurbishment programme, roughly two-fifths done, and the abolition of slopping out, which he described as a 'barbaric practice in a hospital'.

'The important thing is that we prepare patients for the day they leave this hospital in a way that, as far as possible, can help them cope with the very heavy demands that they will face eventually in society.'

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain