A NORTH-EAST hospital, where staff have witnessed drug-dealing, has fitted locks on two of its wards in "extreme" measures to tackle ongoing drugs-related issues.

Last week, two wards at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton were fitted with locks to ensure that "suspicious behaviour" was monitored.

Today, the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said it is now considering extending the fitting of locks to the hospital’s remaining wards.

The Northern Echo:

Julie Lane, chief nurse and director of patient safety and quality, said staff had worked "exceptionally hard" to deal with drugs-related issues at the hospital before the decision to fit the locks.

She said: “We have struggled with issues surrounding drug addiction with some of our patients for some time now.

"We have worked exceptionally hard to support ending the problem before we decided to take this action.We have staff who have witnessed drug deals first hand on site, so we have been sharing available CCTV with the local police force as we try to tackle it.”

The trust said it was responding to concerns that illegal drugs were being brought into the hospital’s wards.

It said the ward locks activated automatically during the evening to allow its nursing staff challenge visitors in the department, while patients are asleep.

The trust said there have been an average of two drugs-related incidents at the hospital every month since January.

Julie Gillon, chief executive of the trust, said it was "disappointing" to have reached the point where wards had to be fitted with locks.

She said: “It is my personal aim, with partners across our system to work towards positive transformation. It’s disappointing to have reached the point that we must put locks on our ward doors, but patient safety is at the heart of what we deliver.

“We would ask all staff, patients and visitors to remain vigilant as we tackle this issue.

“Our communities deserve better. The North-East, as part of a wider system of health care providers and partners continues to highlight the need to promote aspirant population health for the region, and we will not compromise.”