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Men-only plan at Ashworth.

Byline: Alan Weston

A MAJOR shake-up at Liverpool's high-security Ashworth Hospital will see an end to the treatment of women patients.

The Maghull hospital's East Site, which provides care and treatment for 50 women, will close by the end of March, 2004.

After that date, the specialist psychiatric service will be solely for male patients and concentrated on the hospital's North Site.

The women patients will either be moved to a new secure centre at Preston, or to another local medium secure unit.

Making the announcement yesterday , Mersey Care NHS Trust said hospital patients and staff had been briefed about the plan, which would bring to an end ``several years of speculation about the future of both the women's service and the East Site.''

In a letter to staff, the Trust's deputy chief executive, Charles Flynn, said that while the changes meant peoples' jobs would be affected, he was ``hopeful'' that the closure would not lead to any compulsory redundancies.

Instead, staff could be relocated to comparable jobs for the remaining services at Ashworth, while others were likely to be sought after by the new services which are being developed, such as at Lancashire NHS Trust.

But the Prison Officers Association at Ashworth said the news had come as a major shock to hospital staff.

Branch secretary Stuart Eales said: ``There has been conjecture for some months regarding the future of the East site, but assurances have been given by management at Ashworth that there were no plans to close the site.

``The feeling amongst staff is that they have been misled.

``The first concern of the POA is for our members' jobs and it is hoped, as with the closure of the South Site, there will be no need for compulsory redundancies.

``Some thought must be afforded to the patients who are cared for in the East Site. For many this has been their home for many years and the closure will undoubtedly come as bad news.''

Mr Eales added: ``Ashworth Hospital has a long history of catering for female patients and with that history comes a great deal of experience amongst the staff.

``It is a matter of regret that hat priceless expertise will be wasted.''

Mersey Care NHS Trust said that where the women patients were moved to would depend on what is best for each individual patient.

They said male patients would not be affected by the closure as many were waiting to be transferred to either a medium secure unit, or to other high-security hospitals such as Rampton or Broadmoor.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 3, 2002
Words:425
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