Crackdown on arson after spate of fires involving mental health patients

Atherleigh Park
Atherleigh Park
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A crackdown has been ordered by Wigan’s mental health provider after a series of arson attacks involving patients on admission or returning from home leave.

Staff at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have been urged to be extra vigilant after a spate of deliberate fires at in-patient units.

Patients have repeatedly been able to smuggle cigarettes or matches onto their premises without being caught.

Bosses at the mental health trust have confirmed that this included one bed fire at the Atherleigh Park hospital in Leigh, which provides in-patient support for Wigan borough.

But the trust’s medical director has insisted that no-one was injured as a result of the incident and there was “minimal damage” to the ward in question.

The fire was one of four reported across the trust though, which also runs in-patient and low-secure services in Warrington, St Helens and Halton.

In a serious incident report presented to the trust’s November board Gail Briers, the trust’s chief nurse and executive director of operational clinical services, said: “There has been a recent increase of incidents relating to fire within in-patient units resulting in property damage, leading to bed closures.

“A common theme identified is that patients are bringing lighters or matches on to the in-patient units on admission or following leave without being

detected by staff.”

Dr Louise Sell, the trust’s medical director added: “All fires are investigated fully to understand the cause and anything we can do to improve patient safety.

“To manage the risk of fires on our wards, information and learning about incidents is routinely shared with staff across the trust.

“We also have a ‘Searching Service Users and Visitors Policy’ in place which provides guidance for staff to ensure patients and visitors are not able to bring banned items – which includes lighters and matches – on to the wards.”

Additional work has also been carried out to tackle the number of patients who fail to return to in-patient units from unescorted home leave.

This is said to include improved assessments of people’s mental states before they are allowed leave and clearer explanations as to what leave entails for those affected.

Bosses at the mental health trust have confirmed that this included one bed fire at the Atherleigh Park hospital in Leigh, which provides in-patient support for Wigan borough.

But the trust’s medical director has insisted that no-one was injured as a result of the incident and there was “minimal damage” to the ward in question.

The fire was one of four reported across the trust though, which also runs in-patient and low-secure services in Warrington, St Helens and Halton.

In a serious incident report presented to the trust’s November board Gail Briers, the trust’s chief nurse and executive director of operational clinical services, said: “There has been a recent increase of incidents relating to fire within in-patient units resulting in property damage, leading to bed closures.

“A common theme identified is that patients are

bringing lighters or matches on to the in-patient units on admission or following leave without being detected by staff.”

Dr Louise Sell, the trust’s medical director added: “All fires are investigated fully to understand the cause and anything we can do to improve patient safety.

“To manage the risk of fires on our wards, information and learning about incidents is routinely shared with staff across the trust.

“We also have a ‘Searching Service Users and Visitors Policy’ in place which provides guidance for staff to ensure patients and visitors are not able to bring banned items – which includes lighters and matches – on to the wards.”

Additional work has also been carried out to tackle the number of patients who fail to return to in-patient units from unescorted home leave. This is said to include improved assessments of people’s mental states before they are allowed leave and clearer explanations as to what leave entails for those affected.