Rampton Secure Hospital

Rampton Secure Hospital is a high security psychiatric hospital near the village of Woodbeck between Retford and Rampton in the Bassetlaw District of NottinghamshireEngland. See also Broadmoor Hospital


Rampton Hospital houses about 400 patients who have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 under one of these classifications:

  • Mental illness

  • Psychopathic (personality) disorder

  • (Severe) mental impairment, which is the legal term for what would now be called a learning disability.

Rampton Hospital has a staff of about 2000 and provides the national service for patients with a learning disability, women and deaf people requiring high security care. It also provides services for men suffering from mental illness and personality disorder. The hospital has a Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder Unit opened in 2004 as part of a national DSPD pilot (the Peaks Unit).

About a quarter of the patients have had no significant contact with the criminal justice system, but have been detained under the Mental Health Act and are considered to require treatment in conditions of high security owing to their “dangerous, violent or criminal propensities”. Others have been convicted of an offence by the courts and either ordered to be detained in hospital or subsequently transferred there from prison.

Notable patients

Beverly Allitt – “Angel of death” nurse

Allitt was given 13 life sentences in 1993 for murdering four children, attempting to murder another three, and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to a further six at Grantham and Kesteven hospital in Lincolnshire.

Mark Rowntree

Mark Rowntree (born 1956 in BradfordYorkshire) is a British spree killer who was committed to a mental hospital after he admitted killing four people at random in the town of BingleyWest Yorkshire, during late 1975 and early 1976.

Ian Huntley

The Soham murders was an English murder case in 2002 of two 10-year-old girls in the village of SohamCambridgeshire.

Rare glimpse inside Rampton Hospital

Extensive grounds, a swimming pool and a full Sky Sports package are facilities usually found at a five-star hotel, not a high-security hospital.

While some patients at Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire are among the most dangerous criminals in the UK, chief executive Dr Mike Harris says others are their for their own safety.

The hospital’s alumni includes child killer Beverly Allitt and Soham murderer Ian Huntley but staff are passionate about helping patients rebuild their lives. A BBC Inside Out documentary, in which camera crews were allowed into the hospital for the first time in 18 years, gives a glimpse of life at Rampton.

Rampton is a hospital, not a prison as often perceived by those on the outside. Many of the 326 patients have committed extremely violent crimes but some have been admitted to prevent them from harming themselves.

Bill – not his real name – was a patient at Rampton for many years but with the appropriate treatment, he has been able to put his violent past behind him and is now studying for a fine arts degree.

The rooms in the Peaks Unit are sparse and “suicide safe”

“I got arrested for stabbing someone, it was quite an horrific offence,” he said.

“I stabbed them quite a lot of times, bit them, slashed them and put their head through a window.”

When asked by the programme makers if he considered himself to have been a “monster” at the time, he replied: “I was an animal but not a monster.” He added: “This place worked for me and there are some bloody good staff there.”

More than 2,000 staff look after the 326 patients at a cost of £100m a year.

Dismissing suggestions that Rampton is an “easy option” for violent offenders, Dr Harris said: “It’s a philosophical question whether you want to treat people humanely or not. “The vast majority of our patients have had really poor deals in life.

“One in four of the population has a mentalhealth problem at some point in their life, it is terribly common. The people in the hospital are somebody’s children or parents or brother or sister.

“I don’t know what necessarily causes people to end up in a hospital like this but it could happen to any of us or our families. That’s why you don’t lock them up and throw away the key.”

On the flipside to the “holiday camp” allegations is a £25m security system, including a system of 900 CCTV cameras.

“Gary”, a current patient at Rampton, said he was quite frightened when he first arrived. “There are people who have been in here for mass murder and it’s scary to think you are going to be in the same place as someone like that,” he said.

The hospital includes The Peaks Unit for men with severe personality disorders. The rooms are sparse and “suicide safe” with mattresses made from tough material which is tear, rip and heat resistant. The bed frames are made from moulded glass fibre and are designed to withstand damage but also provide a good night’s sleep.

The average stay for a patient at Rampton is now eight years but in a reminder of methods of treatment in previous eras, people who spent their whole lives under lock and key are buried in the hospital’s graveyard.

But for staff at Rampton, a healthy life on the outside is the main goal for their patients.


Rampton Hospital opened in 1912 as an overflow facility for Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire. The grounds occupy a former large common known as “Rampton Field”.

The housing for the staff was built mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. There were several football fields, a rugby football pitch, a cricket field, shop, staff club/pub, disco, library, tennis courts, free indoor heated swimming pool, bowls club. All of this was built for the staff; the housing was rented and only available for the staff. The staff had to leave the houses when they retired. This stopped in the 1980s, and after that the residents were allowed to stay on in the houses after retirement. In the 1990s staff were given the right to buy their houses from the Crown. Houses were then bought at adiscounted rate depending on how long the resident had worked at Rampton: the longer, the cheaper the house was to buy.

On 22 May 1979, Yorkshire Television broadcast an exposé programme titled “Rampton, The Secret Hospital“, showing the routinely severe mistreatment of Rampton patients by staff. A groundbreaking look inside the hitherto secret world of a ‘special hospital’ it has been cited in a “top ten” of television programmes which occasioned intense public debate and engendered far-reaching effects upon its subject area, and it got an International Emmy.

A follow-up television broadcast a few weeks later reported that its immediate effect within the hospital had so far amounted to a few scapegoat prosecutions while the status quo had continued largely as before, except that no staff member could trust another not to be an whistle-blower.

However, through the next 20 years, reforms to mental health service provision and the philosophy of care within institutions led to a more openly-scrutinized environment and patient care became subject to higher expectation and more rigorous inspection.

In February 2000, Rampton Hospital was awarded a Charter Mark award. This government scheme was designed to both reward excellence and encourage constant quality improvement. It is focused on the quality of service provided to users; in Rampton Hospital this included not only patients but also visitors and the general public.

The “special hospitals” of Broadmoor, Rampton, and Ashworth were formerly administered directly by the Home Office and thus outside the National Health Service (NHS). In April 2001, Rampton Hospital became part of the new Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. The Trust provides mental health and learning disability services including:

  • Community forensic service to Nottinghamshire

  • Medium-secure services provided by Arnold Lodge and Wathwood Hospital to patients from the Trent region

  • A high-security service at Rampton Hospital for all NHS regions

In May 2008, a group of patients lost their High Court battle seeking to overturn the rule banning patients from smoking within the hospital.

Major developments at Rampton Hospital recently include the new building: the David Wilson Unit, for High Secure Learning Disability Services. This is a new impressive build to house patients in a better therapeutic environment to nurture, sustain and develop the treatments of the patients housed within.