Healthcare news

Muckamore allegations 'could be tip of the iceberg'

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim. Picture by Mal McCann

ALLEGATIONS that patients were abused at a Co Antrim hospital "could be the tip of the iceberg", a senior mental health expert has warned.

Claims that vulnerable patients were being abused at Muckamore Abbey Hospital were first reported in The Irish News last year.

To date 19 staff have been suspended from Muckamore – at least five of whom are health-care support workers while the majority are nurses – after CCTV cameras reportedly showed physical and mental ill treatment of adults with severe learning disabilities.

Prof Roy McClelland said the stories of parents whose adult children were treated in Muckamore were a "disturbing listen".

He headed the 2007 Bamford Review which provided a blueprint for reform of how people who suffer mental health issues or have a learning disability are treated.

More than a decade on, many of the reforms, including caring for patients in the community, have not been implemented.

He told the BBC the alleged abuse at Muckamore could not be dismissed as "bad apples in a barrel".

"Instead there is something wrong with the barrel and draws attention to the need to look at the system that has failed these people," he said.

"And it's more than just failures within the trust - it strikes me that we may well be looking at the tip of the iceberg."

An independent review of Muckamore, commissioned by the Belfast trust, confirmed in December that patients' lives had been put at risk.

Prof McClelland said the trust has responsibility for the hospital but the head of the Department of Health Richard Pengelly should also be held to account.

"There needs to be management and supervision arrangements, scope for people to report problems arising," he said.

"There also needs to be a management structure so far that has failed and why that has failed needs to be looked at.

"Ultimately the permanent health secretary is responsible.

"There are also Department of Health leaders, including mental health leaders, and they all have some responsibility for implementing reforms and modernisation of our mental health services."

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