Carstairs explained

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On 16th November our speaker was Nicholas Johnston who is a Non-Executive Director and Chair of Clinical Governance Committee at the State Hospital Carstairs.  The talk gave us an insight into a little know but important part of our NHS system.  A short history of the hospital and the factors affecting its evolution shows:

Pre 1800s mental illness dealt with in prison.  Mid 1800s ‘criminal lunatics’ in Perth prison.  1936-39 Carstairs site built.  1939-48 military staff treated.  1948 civilians at the ‘State Hospital for Mental Defectives’ (learning disabilities).  1957 transfer of prisoners with mental illness.  1960s Mental Health legislation.  1994 Special Health Board.  Rebuilt in 2000’s as a modern hospital on a 60 acre site.  Some facts are;


-          The State Hospital Board for Scotland is an NHS health board (not a prison), serving Scotland and Northern Ireland

-          It is one of four High Secure hospitals in the UK, the others being Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth in England.  It was Built 1930s, rebuilt 2000s.

-          120 male psychiatric patients, average age 42, average stay 7 years but ranging from 2 months to 40+ years.  The majority are admitted from courts with offences which include murder, arson, drugs, assault, and sexual offences. Most common diagnosis is schizophrenia.

-          600 staff, including psychiatry, nursing, psychology, occupational therapy, pharmacy, security, activity and recreation.

-          5 non-executive Directors so it is a small Board, which means you have the chance to have an impact as an individual.       

Nicholas explained the range of facilities provided at the site all designed to provide care, treatment and progress to normal living.  In 2014 the hospital saw 27 admissions and 35 discharges.  His explanation of the security systems in place left us wondering if his name was Houdini as it seemed only he could get in and out.  A fascinating and very professionally delivered talk giving us an insight into a vital part of the NHS work.