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Secure unit escapes “unsurprising”


10 September, 2008  

Figures that show there were more than 100 escapes from psychiatric hospitals in England and Wales last year are “horrifying”, but “not surprising”, according to a former chief inspector of prisons.

At least 116 patients in medium and low security psychiatric hospitals escaped either from the institutions or from their escorting staff, according to data released to the BBC.

Former chief inspector of prisons Sir David Ramsbotham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is a horrifying figure of course, but it’s not one that surprises me because the medium and low secure units in the NHS do not have same degree of security a prison does.”

Professor Louis Appleby, national director for mental health in England, agreed, telling the programme that comparing escapes with those from prisons was not a “reasonable comparison”.

“There is a difference here between a prison and a secure unit – a secure unit is a hospital – the people who are in it are patients and they are ill,” he added.

The BBC investigation came in the wake of the case of Darren Harkin who raped a schoolgirl after absconding from a psychiatric unit near Bristol.

Copyright PA Business 2008

Department of Health