Patient records found at old hospital

CONFIDENTIAL patient records have been found at a former hospital site in Essex, it has been claimed. Severalls Hospital in Colchester was closed nearly 10 years ago and the area around the former asylum has been fenced off as it awaits a major regeneration project, which includes a new football stadium for the town.

CONFIDENTIAL patient records have been found at a former hospital site in Essex, it has been claimed.

Severalls Hospital in Colchester was closed nearly 10 years ago and the area around the former asylum has been fenced off as it awaits a major regeneration project, which includes a new football stadium for the town.

But it has been revealed that a group of “urban explorers” - people who specialise in photographing and looking around abandoned buildings - have uncovered large boxes full of patients' information.

The cards date back to the 1970s and include details such as names, addresses, when the person was admitted, who their doctor was and which ward they were in.


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The find was made in a cupboard at the weekend and yesterday the North Essex Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it was now examining the details of the documents - although it stressed the site was private property and the group had been trespassing.

But Ian Richards, formerly one of the organisers of the Save Severalls campaign group, said he had seen records for at least 100 patients.

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Mr Richards, 39, said he was a “part-time” urban explorer and had joined about 12 others on the site at the weekend.

He said: “There was a lot of confidential stuff and the people or their families could still be living in the area and you are talking about people who have had serious mental health problems so it is a very sensitive issue.

“Every stairwell has a cupboard under it and they have just missed one but there is also the possibility that there are more out there.”

He said accessing the site was very easy and claimed the group had spent about four uninterrupted hours in there.

Internet sites of various urban explorer groups show numerous and detailed pictures from within the hospital grounds

“They have to close the site or make it more secure as there has been a security issue for a long time now,” the Colchester resident said.

The Severalls site has seen several fires since it was closed with two major blazes in the past year which destroyed the ballroom and the former surgery block.

Following a fierce blaze at the great hall in September last year, Essex County Councillor Jeremy Lucas, responsible for heritage culture and the arts, branded it an appalling tragedy which “should and probably could have been avoided” through better security.

A spokesman for the North Essex Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said: “Following an illegal entry to the secure part of the site a member of the public reported finding papers inside one of the buildings.

“We have taken steps to remove these and are currently examining the documents concerned.

“Severalls Hospital is private property. Access to this part of the site is strictly prohibited on the grounds of public safety.

“Anybody entering the site is committing a crime. Six-foot security fencing prevents access. In addition, regular security patrols take place throughout the day and night.”

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