A total of 100 complaints and 1,013 incidents were recorded at Ashworth Hospital in the quarter ending December 1997.

The figures were published in a report to the hospital's board meeting last week, which was opened to the public for the first time by chief executive Hilary Hodge.

The number of complaints has risen from 85 the previous quarter. The highest category was again nursing care, which accounted for 29 per cent of total complaints.

Some 22 per cent of complaints related to property issues, and complaints that staff use patients' food provisions are a regular feature, the report says.

Commenting on the 1,013 ward-level incidents, Ashworth chair Paul Lever said that the figure put into context what kind of hospital Ashworth was and what frontline staff were up against.

Dr Hodge said in her report to the board that an assessment of the team of independent clinicians commissioned by the committee of inquiry into the personality disorder unit had been very 'positive'.

The assessment was part of the Fallon public inquiry, which was sparked by allegations of pornography and paedophilia in the PDU.

Both Mr Lever and Dr Hodge last week hit back at the 'disinformation' being spread about Ashworth. Dr Hodge also defended herself against claims of 'macho' management.

Ashworth announced last week that the hospital's 32-acre south site in Maghull, which has become redundant, has been sold to the Home Office for£2.4m.