Psychiatric unit 'prejudicial to care of patients': Centre where therapist was killed condemned

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The Independent Online
A PSYCHIATRIC unit where an occupational therapist was stabbed to death and a number of patients committed suicide within months of leaving should be replaced urgently, a report concluded yesterday.

The Edith Morgan Centre, part of the South Devon Healthcare Trust, was said by the Mental Health Act Commission to be 'seriously prejudicial' to the care of patients.

Separate care facilities for the care of the region's most seriously disturbed patients should be established as soon as possible away from the present site at Torbay's district general hospital and an independent trust set up to administer it.

The trust said it favoured the measures, contained in 41 recommendations outlined by the commission, but said that the the approval of the South Western region would required, together with financial backing from the Government.

However, Tony Boyce, chairman of the trust, said that a working party would be set up soon to modify the centre in the short-term to overcome some of the weaknesses.

The inquiry, conducted by the three-strong review team led by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, came at the request of the trust, which was already concerned about the provision of mental health care prior to the killing of the occupational therapist, Georgina Robinson, 26. She was stabbed by Andrew Robinson, 36, who was sent to Broadmoor indefinitely after pleading guilty to manslaughter. An inquiry is to be conducted into the killing.

The unit was dogged by controversy after 10 patients or former patients committed suicide in the year to June 1989. In 1992, five patients killed themselves within six months of leaving and four did so in 1993.

The report, however, said the rate was no worse for the unit than anywhere else, though the client population had changed dramatically since its opening and it was now ill- designed to meet the needs of the mentally disturbed.

The centre's central lounge, envisaged as the hub of the building, in reality created 'a sense of desolation' and was more reminiscent of 'a disused bus station', it said.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said the health department should set up an independent inquiry to learn from the 'catalogue of tragedies'.

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