• 02 October 2019
  • 4 min read

Patient numbers at Muckamore Abbey Hospital ‘significantly reduced’ following abuse

  • Nurses.co.uk News
    Editorial and news team

Patient numbers at a mental health hospital in Northern Ireland have “significantly reduced” following allegations of abuse, the Health Department said.

Challenging time for staff and patients

Muckamore Abbey Hospital just outside Antrim town provides inpatient facilities for those with learning difficulties and cognitive issues.

An expert report was commissioned in September 2017, following reports of inappropriate behaviour and alleged physical abuse of patients by staff in two wards.

A Department of Health statement said: “The priority for Muckamore remains the safety and stability of care provided there.

“Suspensions clearly contribute to the challenge of maintaining required staffing levels.

“However, it should also be emphasised that the patient population at Muckamore has been significantly reduced over the past year.

“This has helped mitigate staffing pressures to a degree.”

The department admitted it was a difficult and challenging time for everyone involved with Muckamore.

It said it was “firmly committed” to reducing lengthy hospital admissions by providing additional support for people to live sustainably in local communities.

“The reshaping of services will cover different aspects of care, including: in-patient assessment and treatment of patients with learning disabilities; respite care; outreach work to support community placements; and provision in circumstances where placements might break down.

“Identifying the best long-term location or locations for inpatient and respite care will form part of this work.

“The best interest of patients and their families will be the paramount consideration at all times.”

Northern Ireland Secretary

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith previously apologised to families

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith previously apologised to families over the alleged abuse.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: “The Secretary of State was grateful for the meeting with Mr Brown and was very sorry to hear of his case, and the many others, where there are allegations of very serious abuse.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further on a private meeting.”

CCTV footage has revealed 1,500 crimes on one ward, police said.

Detectives are investigating allegations about the physical and mental abuse of patients.

The centre just outside Antrim town provides inpatient facilities for those with learning difficulties and mental health issues.

An expert report was commissioned in September 2017, following reports of inappropriate behaviour and alleged physical abuse of patients by staff in two wards.

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13 staff members suspended

Reviewers raised concerns about the safeguarding of adults, provision of meaningful activities for patients and physical health care.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which commissioned the report, did not publish the draft document but confirmed it had suspended 13 members of staff. It said:

“We want to place on record our sincere apologies to those patients and their families affected by staff behaviours which fell significantly below professional standards and were unacceptable.”

Senior Trust staff then met with families to discuss the findings and draft recommendations of the report into safeguarding at the care facility.

The Trust’s statement said: “We have taken decisive action, which included placing 13 members of staff on precautionary suspension.

“We are actively working on improving leadership and management arrangements at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, with the goal of ensuring that the voices of patients, family carers, advocates and others are clearly and effectively part of the future arrangements in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.”

A director oversight group led by the director of nursing and the director of adult, social and primary care is in place.

The Trust's report

The Trust separately commissioned a fully independent team to undertake a review of the broader factors in play at Muckamore, to provide a clear picture of what happened and to make recommendations on how to improve safeguarding.

The Trust said: “The findings highlighted that improvements are required in leadership and management, adult safeguarding approaches, advocacy, access to meaningful activities for patients and physical health care.

“We fully accept all the findings and we will now work to ensure these are delivered.

“The report strongly urges the Trust and the wider health, social care and housing organisations to re-double their efforts to ensure that patients do not have to live in hospital environments.

“It recommends patients are enabled to live full lives in the community, with access to the right specialist multi-disciplinary support in the right accommodation.”

Draft recommendations include:

– A renewed commitment to enabling people with learning disabilities and autism to have full lives in their communities;

– Delivery of robust community services which recognise the full range of needs of people and families throughout their lives.

– Assessment and treatment units should be closer to home and effective long-term quality accommodation options should be available.

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  • Nurses.co.uk News
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