Beckenham: Bethlem boss should resign over escapes, says councillor

09:52 21 March 2012

Cllr Nicholas Bennett

Cllr Nicholas Bennett

Archant

The chairman of South London and Maudsley Trust should resign after the escape of four violent teenagers from a mental health unit, a councillor has claimed.

West Wickham Cllr Nicholas Bennett said it was time for Madeline Long to stand down and accused her of failing to engage with Bromley Council in her six-year term at the trust, which manages Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, from where the four boys aged 16 to 18 absconded on February 26.

The 10-bed Bill Yule unit in Monks Orchard Road has been suspended while an investigation takes place. It is uncertain whether it will ever reopen.

The council held a meeting with Ms Long and chief executive Stuart Bell last Tuesday.

Cllr Bennett told the Bromley Times: “We call Madeline Long the invisible woman. She has never engaged with the council or the leader, Stephen Carr. I asked her and Stuart Bell whether it was time to reconsider their positions, but they said no.

“I certainly think it’s time for Madeline Long to resign. What is she being paid for?”

Beckenham MP Bob Stewart raised the issue in parliament last week and discovered that there had been eight escapes and eight incidents of patients absconding while on escorted leave since the unit opened in 2004.

He said: “I don’t expect the Bill Yule unit to be reopened unless, or until, it is as secure as the River House adult facility, which has never had an escape since it opened in 2008.”

Mr Bennett said he was especially concerned as nobody was able to tell him whether the window had been smashed, jemmied or removed, more than two weeks after the incident.

A trust spokesman refused to comment on the resignation calls but said: “We take this incident very seriously and we apologise for the concern it has caused the local community.

“We have suspended the service whilst an external investigation is undertaken. This will look at how the incident happened and all aspects of how the unit operates, including security arrangements.”

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