Northern Ireland news

Health chief Richard Pengelly 'appalled' by Muckamore CCTV

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim. Picture by Mal McCann

THE north's most senior health official has told MPs he was "shocked and appalled" at video footage showing the abuse of vulnerable patients at Muckamore Abbey hospital.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly yesterday gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

It questioned him on social care and mental health services and asked how concerns could be addressed in the absence of devolved government.

Mr Pengelly was asked about Muckamore Abbey in Co Antrim, which provides specialist inpatient care to adults with severe learning disabilities.

It is at the centre of the biggest criminal safeguarding investigation of its kind in the north after CCTV footage emerged of patients being abused by health-care staff last year.

The National Crime Agency has been appointed to assist the PSNI. There have been numerous suspensions of staff.

A whistleblower told The Irish News in July that patients at Muckamore were kicked, punched, kneed in the groin and thrown into a seclusion room without supervision.

Mr Pengelly previously apologised and told relatives he was "appalled and angered that vulnerable people were let down".

Yesterday, committee member and Labour MP Kate Hoey said what happened at Muckamore was "quite shocking". She asked Mr Pengelly if there was now a "grip on what's going on" and if a public inquiry should be held.

"I'm confident that what is happening today has fundamentally changed from the behaviour that has happened," Mr Pengelly said.

"I cannot say with complete confidence that we know everything that happened, because I still have colleagues reviewing all the available CCTV evidence.

"I've looked at some of the CCTV evidence and I was shocked and appalled in some cases by what I saw."

Mr Pengelly added that he was unable to initiate a public inquiry. That could only be done by the assembly or secretary of state.

"The point I made to the families was that if a public inquiry was initiated today, it would have to adjourn until the police investigation concludes," he said.

"The police investigation is ongoing, I met with senior officers last Friday, primarily to offer them any and all support we could."

Mr Pengelly also plans to meet the chief executives of the north's five health trusts.

"The main reason for meeting with trust chief executives is to develop an action plan to make good on my commitment that a year from now nobody will call Muckamore their home, we have people that have been there for far, far too long," he said.

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