Most people are now aghast that in 1988 serial sex offender Jimmy Savile was given a key position running Broadmoor psychiatric hospital by Tory MP Edwina Currie, then a junior health minister, despite the fact he had no expertise in mental health. According to the Guardian “She was also supportive of Savile’s promise to confront unionised prison officers.”
Currie told an NHS inquiry that Savile had looked at “everything he could use to blackmail the POA (Prison Officers Association)”, and she thought this approach was a “pretty classy piece of operation”.
Below, Brian Caton, former General Secretary of the POA and Barnsley Socialist Party member, recalls how Savile’s appointment caused enormous damage.
I have read with some disgust recent newspaper articles relating to the “Tory Knight” Savile and comments reported to have been given by Edwina Currie, former Tory Health Minister, regarding Savile’s work at Broadmoor Special Hospital in the 1980s and 1990s.
I became the POA National Officer responsible for the special hospitals in 1990. Savile had been ‘hanging around’ Broadmoor for a number of years at that time and was an irritant to both staff and patients.
Following discussions, the union decided to use the media to highlight the fact that Savile’s presence was a threat to security and a distraction from the necessary therapy, treatment, care and security for some of the most damaged, dangerous and difficult people in the country.
Broadmoor management’s reaction was to attack the union and its officials (the POA had 99% union density across the then five special/state hospitals system).
The government had commissioned a report, the Olliff report, which sought to eradicate the POA. The report sought to move special hospitals into the mainstream NHS and away from the very special and necessary administration held jointly under the Department of Health and the Home Office.
These changes were a disaster and resulted in escapes, a dangerous loss of control and deterioration in constructive treatment and therapy for extremely ill patients.
We are now told that Savile was part of these misguided plans by a Tory government, which had already wreaked havoc with its money-grabbing ‘Care in the Community’ programme, which closed psychiatric hospitals, sold the land and put nothing back into the care of very vulnerable people released into an uncaring world.
I made many verbal attacks on Savile, his friend and Head of Broadmoor, Alan Franey, and indeed Charles Kay, Head of the Special Hospital Service Authority, all of which were justifiable and honestly put.
But to now hear the shabby acts of Tory ministers in placing Savile to undermine the POA I feel that it is time that the people with responsibility for the management of Savile’s activities must be brought to task, including the aforementioned managers.
I would never say that special hospitals did not have problems, as indeed did the staff that worked in them, but the management at senior levels, up to and including ministerial oversight, was perverse in the extreme.
It is not just David Cameron’s choice of press advisor that shows how bad the millionaire Tory politicians’ judgments are – they have made bad judgments for years and have sought to use all manner of evils to attack trade unions and the working class.