New psychiatric hospital’s AWOL record revealed

Atherleigh Park
Atherleigh Park

There were 11 incidents of patients going AWOL from the borough’s new psychiatric hospital in the first two months of its opening.

NHS bosses insist one patient was responsible for at least eight of the unauthorised absences at Atherleigh Park, the state-of-the-art £40m unit built on the former Leigh East RL ground.

We have reviewed their care and support needs to prevent further incidents

Gail Briers, the trust’s nursing director

But board members at North West Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have been told that there was only one reported absconder at the old Lakeview Unit at Leigh Infirmary in February, by comparison.

Atherleigh Park hosts an eight-bed psychiatric intensive care unit, the Sovereign Unit, a 20-bed male unit, and the Westleigh Unit, which also caters for 20 female patients.

Staff have discovered difficulties with “release buttons”, which were fitted to the units during the two-year construction of the Atherleigh Way hospital.

But a security review has now seen fresh “over-ride” provisions installed to prevent more patients going AWOL, the board has been informed.

In a board report Gail Briers, the trust’s nursing director, said: “The increase has been seen following the move to our new hospital where some areas of security in the physical environment have been identified by service users who have then absconded from the unit.

“The incidents are attributable to a very small number of patients, and one patient accounting for eight incidents.

“We have reviewed their care and support needs to prevent further incidents. Our clinical teams are also working closely with colleagues in estates to make minor changes where appropriate.”

The Atherleigh Park absconder figures contributed to the NHS trust’s overall figures increasing from five incidents in January to 17 in April. North West Boroughs also provides secure units in Warrington, Halton, St Helens and Knowsley.

Coun Myra Whiteside, who represents Leigh West ward, said she had not been informed about the incidents.

An official from North West Boroughs, when approached for a further statement on the absconder figures for May, declined to comment for patient confidentiality reasons.

The reporting of medication-related incidents is also being reviewed at the unit.