Broadmoor Hospital is one of the three special hospitals covering England and Wales. It provides approximately 500 beds for mentally disordered patients who on account of their dangerous, violent or criminal propensities constitute a grave and immediate danger to the public, requiring treatment in conditions of special security (Section 4, National Health Service Act, 1977). It is generally recognised, however, that there are patients in special hospitals no longer requiring treatment in conditions of maximum security. These patients could probably be more appropriately cared for elsewhere if the facilities existed in general psychiatric hospitals or the community. However, special hospital consultants frequently encounter significant obstacles when attempting to transfer patients to local hospitals. Dell (1980) highlighted this problem, suggesting that 16% of special hospital patients were waiting to leave, following the agreement of the DHSS and the Home Office to their transfer. This delay appeared to be due to hospitals not wanting to accept patients who might prove to be difficult or dangerous. At the time of this current study (March 1990) these difficulties in transferring patients were particularly relevant as two of the special hospitals, Broadmoor and Ashworth (Park Lane and Moss Side) were full for male patients and therefore closed to male admissions, despite a continuing demand for beds.
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