Eight 'alerts' issued following Muckamore Abbey abuse probe
EIGHT 'red flag' alert letters have been issued by the Department of Health in relation to nursing staff facing abuse allegations at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, it has emerged.
The department has confirmed that its Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, has issued the alerts after The Irish News last month revealed an unprecedented level of staff suspensions at the Co Antrim facility for adults with severe learning disabilities.
A police investigation and a 'level 3' independent Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) probe are ongoing, with more than 40 incidents of alleged patient abuse being investigated.
Reports have also been sent to the Public Prosecution Service.
To date, 13 staff - mainly nurses - have been suspended from the Muckamore hospital after CCTV footage apparently showed staff striking patients with severe learning disabilities and mental illnesses.
The allegations relate to two wards, including a psychiatric intensive care unit.
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The Belfast health trust, which is responsible for Muckamore, issued an "unreserved apology" to patients and families affected in the wake of the allegations.
The department's 'alert' system is triggered to notify potential employers in both public and private healthcare settings that there are serious professional concerns about a healthcare worker.
The mechanism is used to 'safeguard the public' and is usually issued before the regulator, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council in this case, has an opportunity to impose 'interim suspensions'.
Official guidance on the alert system stresses that they 'do not indicate that a ruling has been made against an individual named in the alert'.