Scandal of Our Nurses Working as Jail Warders as Streetwise Criminals Play the System to Turn Hospitals into Warzones; MIRROR SPECIAL INVESTIGATION INTO DANGEROUS LEGAL LOOPHOLE

The Mirror (London, England), August 2, 2000 | Go to article overview

Scandal of Our Nurses Working as Jail Warders as Streetwise Criminals Play the System to Turn Hospitals into Warzones; MIRROR SPECIAL INVESTIGATION INTO DANGEROUS LEGAL LOOPHOLE


SCOTLAND'S psychiatric nurses are living in fear of their lives from violent criminals who should be in jail instead of hospital.

A special investigation by the Mirror has exposed a loophole in the system used by violent thugs to dodge prison and get softly softly hospital treatment instead.

Hundreds of nursing staff are being subjected to assaults by street-wise thugs.

We can also reveal that the criminals have created a new drugs culture in psychiatric units across the country by abusing the security arrangements, which are much laxer than in prisons.

Many are openly getting their relatives to pass them illicit substances in wards and through open windows. They use the drugs themselves as well as dealing to other patients with genuine mental illnesses.

And sickened nurses are forced to put their lives and safety on the line if they want to do anything to stop it.

A leading Scots nursing union has already written to the Lord Advocate to complain about the violence its members are being subjected to.

Last night, one psychiatric nurse told the Mirror: "If the people of Scotland knew just how bad things were they would be truly shocked.

"The kind of people we are asked to look after alongside genuine patients is terrifying.

"Many of us are scared to go into work each day because we don't know if it will be our last.

"We are trained nurses for God's sake, not prison warders."

The criminals are referred to the psychiatric units by the courts for assessment of their mental state.

All have insisted that their solicitors argue that a psychiatric condition was responsible for any crime they may or may not have committed.

So, instead of being sent to await trial or sentencing in a Prison remand hall - where their access to drugs would be severely restricted - they are being sent to mainstream psychiatric hospitals under Section 52 of the Criminal Procedures Act.

There they are monitored by nursing staff and assessments can last anywhere from three weeks to 105 days.

During that time they are not allowed to be given any kind of medication or treatment. If they become violent and threaten staff or other patients, nurses can only attempt to restrain or sedate them.

But, amazingly, many of the nursing staff caught up in these confrontations have not even been given training in control and restraint techniques.

LAST night, the SNP's Shadow Health Minister Kay Ullrich branded the situation a scandal and called for a top level probe.

She said: "It is totally unacceptable that we should be allowing our NHS staff to be made as vulnerable as this.

"There is a need for an urgent review and steps should be taken immediately to address this scandalous situation.

"I agree that these people should be assessed but not in hospital where they are obviously putting lives at risk."

One psychiatric nurse, who works in Glasgow and preferred not to be named, said: "We are supposed to be treating patients - not criminals. Section 52 criminals should not be in our wards mixing with genuinely ill people.

"We are the ones in the trenches - we are the frontline of psychiatric care.

"Yet, despite constant complaints to management, we are under-resourced and have no proper training to deal with these people.

"Death threats are a daily occurrence, as well as being punched and knocked about regularly by them. …

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