Healthcare news

MLAs to demand 'full briefing' on Muckamore abuse scandal from Belfast trust chiefs

Muckamore Abbey Hospital is the regional inpatient facility for adults with severe learning disabilities. Picture by Mal McCann

A cross-party group of assembly members are to demand "a full briefing" on the Muckamore hospital abuse scandal from Belfast trust chiefs at a meeting tomorrow.

The meeting comes after it emerged that seven nurses linked to the scandal have had suspensions from working in the NHS lifted due to lack of evidence following a High Court challenge.

The finalised court order, seen by The Irish News, reveals that the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which imposed the suspensions, must pay the legal costs of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) which mounted the challenge on behalf of its members.

The order was made by Mr Justice Gerry McAlinden on Friday, with the trust spending the weekend calling relatives of patients harmed in the Co Antrim facility to inform them of the decision.

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It states: "The suspension imposed on the Plaintiff by an interim suspension order made on [date specific to individual applicant] by an Investigating Committee of the Nursing and Midwifery Council is terminated.

"It is further ordered that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff’s costs of this application."

The 18-month bans were imposed during private hearings in Belfast last August, a month after the scale of the abuse was first revealed in The Irish News.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital is the regional inpatient facility for adults with severe learning disabilities and is at the centre of the biggest criminal safeguarding investigation in Northern Ireland.

Read More: Muckamore families welcome police searches but concern about length of investigation

Police are investigating 158 incidents of alleged ill treatment of patients.

Nineteen staff - mainly nurses - remain suspended by the trust, despite the court ruling.

Families are seeking a public inquiry into the scandal, while the RCN has formally informed Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly that it is also supporting calls for an independent inquiry.

Sinn Féin health spokesman Pat Sheehan, who is among politicians attending tomorrow's meeting, said he believes relatives face a "long haul" for answers and senior figures "to say `That's my responsibility, I'm going to take it on the chin'."

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He said he had to report the trust to the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) before Christmas when a newly-qualified nurse was potentially left in charge of a ward at Muckamore hospital with a single agency nurse and two healthcare assistants.

The RQIA is responsible for inspecting the availability and quality of health and social care services.

Mr Sheehan said there are supposed to be 12 staff on such wards.

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