§ Mr. Blunkett
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on her plans to review conditions at Ashworth special hospital.
§ Mr. Yeo
The report of the committee of inquiry into complaints about Ashworth hospital, chaired by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, was published on 5 August. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that we and the Special Hospitals Service Authority (SHSA) accepted the great majority of the report's recommendations, and set out the action being taken on the issues it raised.
The finding of improper conduct and ill-treatment of patients by a number of staff were to be dealt with in accordance with the SHSA's disciplinary procedures. As a 638W result of these two of the staff concerned have now been dismissed, one has been demoted, two given final written warnings and one a first written warning. In five cases no action was taken following the disciplinary hearing and one case was not proceeded with.
My right hon. Friend also stated that the SHSA were drawing up an action plan for implementing the agreed recommendations and that a task force was being formed at the hospital—with reinforcement from outside—to take immediate responsibility for carrying it out. We have approved the action plan which the SHSA submitted, as it was required to, at the end of August. The work of the task force is supervised by a steering committee comprising the chairman, vice-chairman and chief executive of the SHSA, which is submitting regular progress reports to me. We will be arranging an independent audit of the action taken on the Inquiry report during the course of next year.
The inquiry reported on unacceptable literature being circulated at the hospital and two former senior police officers have been appointed to investigate this. To date, two members of staff have been suspended as a result of these investigations.
My right hon.Friend also announced that we were forming a working group to consider the most effective provision of services for patients requiring psychiatric treatment in conditions of high security, and the relationship between such services and those provided within national health service regions and the prison service. This group, which is chaired by Dr. John Reed of the Department of Health, started work in October and is due to report by April next year.
My right hon. Friend's statement made clear our concern about the findings of the Inquiry report about a number of aspects of the care and treatment provided at Ashworth hospital. It also recognised the excellent work which is done at Ashworth by many dedicated staff. The action we have taken, and which is continuing, demonstrates our commitment to support and develop this work while tackling the deficiencies revealed by the report and their underlying causes.