The State Hospital

(Carstairs State Hospital)

Carstairs State Hospital
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Carstairs State Hospital

Located on moorland a half-mile (1 km) northeast of Carstairs Junction and 1¼ miles (2 km) west southwest of Carnwath in South Lanarkshire is the State Hospital, Carstairs. This facility is unique in Scotland, providing for the seclusion and treatment of the criminally insane from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Patients are admitted from, and discharged to, other hospitals, prisons, courts and the community, spending on average around eight years in the State Hospital, with periods of confinement ranging from a few weeks to 40 years. The average age of patients is 42 years but there are a small number under the age of 18.

Carstairs was built 1936-39 but, owing to the Second World War, was initially used as an army hospital. It opened as the State Institution for Mental Defectives in 1948, but it was not until 1957 that ninety criminally insane prisoners were transferred here from HM Prison Perth. In 1994, the hospital became part of the National Health Service in Scotland, managed within its own special health board, accountable to the Scottish Ministers. The East Wing was abandoned in 1996, with new accommodation provided within an expanded West Wing, creating a 240-bed hospital.

Between 2008 and 2012, the hospital was completely rebuilt in a £67-million project to provide modern facilities for 140 male patients, cared for by 700 staff. This meant 100 existing patients (including all females) were transferred to lower security units.

The new hospital was opened on 26th June 2012 by Nicola Sturgeon (b.1970), Deputy First Minister of Scotland, and comprises 19,000 sq. m of new wards and facilities, as well as the refurbishment of a further 1,500 sq. m of existing space. The Hospital continued operating as normal during the construction period, with the final phase involving the demolition of the outdated buildings. HRH The Princess Royal visited on 9th October 2012, meeting staff and patients.

The State Hospital provides psychiatric care for patients in a high security environment. Security includes sirens which would warn the local population should a patient escape. Perhaps the most serious incident at the hospital took place on the 30th November 1976 when two patients, Robert Mone and Thomas McCulloch, killed two staff and a fellow patient during a well-planned escape. Security was immediately reviewed and strengthened.

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