Muckamore Abbey Hospital: Patient’s father insists only public inquiry will uncover full extent of scandal

Muckamore Abbey Hospital near Antrim. 'Pic by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Muckamore Abbey Hospital near Antrim. 'Pic by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The father of a young man who is a patient at Muckamore Abbey Hospital has insisted that nothing short of a public inquiry will uncover the full extent of the abuse scandal.

He was speaking after he and a number of other relatives of patients met with senior staff from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which runs the facility near Antrim, earlier this week.

A review into the hospital’s treatment of vulnerable patients, many with severe learning disabilities and challenging mental health needs, found catastrophic failings and evidence of ill-treatment.

Nineteen healthcare staff remain suspended, and police investigations are continuing into allegations of abuse at the hospital.

It is understood PSNI officers are reviewing 240,000 hours of CCTV footage as part of their investigation.

The Belfast man, who did not want to be named, was among dozens of concerned family members who met with senior Belfast Health Trust officials on Monday night to discuss the situation at the hospital.

Among those who participated in the meeting were trust chief executive Martin Dillon and chairman Peter McNaney.

“I wanted to offer my sincere apologies in person to the families and to provide assurance to them that since the viewing of historical CCTV, considerable work has been done to improve the leadership and management arrangements at Muckamore Abbey Hospital,” Mr Dillon said.

“I have direct oversight over improvements in care delivery and governance in Muckamore Abbey Hospital and I have assured families that the Trust will hold any staff member to account if their behaviour falls short of acceptable practice.”

The chief executive told the BBC that while the buck rests with him for the failings in patient care at the hospital, he would not resign and is determined to put things right.

Speaking to the News Letter, the Belfast man whose son is still a patient at the facility branded the trust-organised meeting “a PR stunt”.

He said that while there were several apologies offered by different members of staff, many family members left the meeting “none the wiser” about what went on at the hospital and who was responsible.

“Only a public inquiry will get to the bottom of all this and find out exactly how everything went so spectacularly wrong,” he said.

“I have zero confidence in them (the trust).

“We need a public inquiry and witnesses compelled to attend. Half of this scandal still hasn’t come out.”

The Belfast Trust said the aim of Monday’s meeting, which was chaired by Dr Margaret Flynn, the author of the Serious Adverse Incident Report, ‘A Review of Safeguarding at Muckamore Abbey Hospital – A Way to Go’, was to engage with families about how they could be involved in oversight of inpatient care and improved advocacy for patients.

“The trust wants to ensure that families and carers play a full and active role in future planning for the care of their loved ones,” a spokesperson said.

“The trust also provided an update on staffing matters, reiterating that, whilst challenges remain, Muckamore Abbey Hospital is operating safely.

“The Belfast Trust will continue to work with the PSNI and are fully co-operating with the ongoing investigation.”