Healthcare news

Parent at centre of Muckamore probe hits out at department

Glynn Brown is campaigning for a public inquiry into the abuse scandal at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

THE father of a Muckamore patient who first alerted the Department of Health to the scale of abuse allegations at the hospital has described its refusal to order a public inquiry as a "severe disappointment".

Glynn Brown (58), who played a crucial role in exposing the scandal, is referenced in a letter sent by the department's legal advisor this week in which she states that establishing an inquiry is not in the public interest at this time.

The Dundonald man has spent the past year sending multiple Freedom of Information (FoI) requests as well as 'data access' and 'subject access' requests to find out about alleged abuse of his 23-year-old non-verbal autistic son - who was allegedly punched in the stomach by a health professional.

Police are currently investigating 48 alleged incidents linked to Mr Brown's vulnerable son while he was being nursed in the hospital's Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit in the summer of 2017.

Speaking to The Irish News, Mr Brown expressed his frustration with the department's decision but said he was determined to keep campaigning for an inquiry.

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Last month he received an apology from the chairman of the Belfast trust board, Peter McNaney, for his difficulties accessing information and a pledge of more transparency.

"How big a scandal do you need before the department decide to order a public inquiry. Just how bad does it have to get?" Mr Brown said.

"They say it's not in the public interest but police have told us this is the biggest adult safeguarding investigation of its kind in Northern Ireland.

"Public confidence in the trust has been massively undermined and I think it will take a long to recover.

"The department response is a severe disappointment but will not weaken our resolve to fight on for an inquiry.

"We want this inquiry so that lessons can be learned as and to ensure this won't happen again."

Mr Brown added that he was heartened by the department's pledge it will keep the matter "under review" following suggestions it could not legally order an inquiry in the absence of a minister.

"They obviously have the authority to call it. If this is the case this decision needs to be tested in court before an independent judge," he said.

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