Buildings at Menston's High Royds Hospital are out-dated and unsuitable for providing modern mental health services, a health chief admitted today.

John Oldham, chief executive of the Leeds Community and Mental Health Services Teaching Trust which is responsible for the city's mental health services, was speaking after consultants said cramped conditions and understaffing had led to outbreaks of violence on the wards.

Now MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough Paul Truswell wants an external inquiry into the Leeds' mental health services.

And he wants an early start to work on new units which would replace facilities at High Royds and the Roundhay wing at St James Hospital.

Professor Dick Mindham, Nuffield Professor of Psychiatry at Leeds University, and two senior colleagues say services have reached a critical position and that it is only a matter of time before a more serious incident occurs, and are calling for an inquiry into Leeds' mental health services by an external body.

Mr Oldham said the consultants had stressed that more resources should be put into mental health services.

He said: "I wouldn't disagree with that. The Trust recognises that the buildings are totally outdated and unsuitable for providing modern mental health services and is working jointly with Leeds Health Authority to address these issues.

"It's not a question of blaming anyone but of managing a difficult situation and everyone knows health services, and particularly mental health services are under-funded.''

He said it was hoped to replace the facilities at High Royds and Roundhay Ward with new units at Leeds General Infirmary, Seacroft Hospital and St James' through a Private Funding Initiative by the year 2000 or 2001, when High Royds is scheduled for closure.

The trust would be looking into reports that a frail female patient was knocked to the ground and injured during a fight between two young male patients at High Royds.

He said: "We will be investigating what happened and learn any lessons we can to stop it happening again.''

Mr Truswell said problems had been caused by closing beds at High Royds before new facilities were provided.

The MP backed calls by the consultants for an external inquiry and said he and the other seven Leeds MPs were hoping to meet health minister John Hutton in a bid to get the Private Funding Initiative approved as soon as possible.

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