Northern Ireland news

Five vulnerable patients 'were assaulted by staff at Muckamore Abbey Hospital'

Muckamore Abbey Hospital provides care to adults with intellectual disabilities and behavioural and mental health issues

FIVE vulnerable patients were assaulted by staff at Muckamore Abbey Hospital between 2014 and 2017, it has been reported.

The hospital, which hit the headlines after it was revealed that 13 members of staff have been suspended since November, provides care to adults with intellectual disabilities and behavioural and mental health issues.

The Irish News revealed earlier this week an independent 'level 3' Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) probe was triggered last September, after an initial probe led to a major police investigation, the 13 suspensions, with a further 10 suspensions 'pending'.

Reviews of this kind are extremely rare, with less than 10 carried out over the past two years.

After four members of staff were suspended in November 2017 over allegations of ill-treatment of patients, the trust carried out a review of archived CCTV footage and a further nine.

CCTV footage shows staff allegedly striking vulnerable patients and pulling them to the floor by the hair.

There are claims of 'unauthorised seclusion' and adults 'being left in the dark' without supervision.

Other mentally ill patients were said to be locked out and left alone in the Co Antrim grounds for "up to one hour" while footage also appears to show patients being 'dragged' into bedrooms.

Such is the scale of the crisis that agency nurses are being flown in from England to provide emergency cover at the facility near Antrim town, with the health service paying for them to stay at the nearby Dunadry four-star hotel.

It is understood the allegations are linked to the psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Muckamore, which is staffed by almost 25 specialist nursing staff.

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Targets set by the Department of Health to resettle all patients have been missed.

There are 500 members of staff and 80 patients, described as having "complex needs and amongst the most vulnerable in our society".

BBC News NI said Belfast Trust would not comment on whether anyone had been disciplined because it was "an ongoing investigation".

There is no information on whether criminal proceedings resulted in these cases.

Figures obtained by the broadcaster under Freedom of Information (FOI) showed thousands of incidents of violence towards staff by patients in the same time period.

There have been almost 200 instances of Muckamore staff on sick leave for stress since 2014.

In its response to the FOI, the Belfast Trust said: "All incidents of assaults on patients by staff are reported and fully investigated under the adult safeguarding policy."

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