Northern Ireland news

Belfast health trust chief to meet Muckamore families for first time since scandal broke

Seanín Graham

THE head of the Belfast health trust is to meet families affected by the Muckamore hospital abuse scandal for the first time - 18 months after a major investigation was ordered.

Chief executive Martin Dillon, who has yet to speak publicly on the crisis, is to discuss the outcome of a NHS investigation with relatives as well as the "need to significantly improve communications".

The trust, which is responsible for the Co Antrim facility, has been castigated over its failure to provide information about the ill-treatment their loved ones suffered - with one parent resorting to using Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation to get more detail on 48 incidents linked to abuse of his son by healthcare professionals.

Pressure is mounting on the government to order a public inquiry as many relatives have raised concerns about transparency in the organisation - and say that an independent review didn't go far enough in holding senior trust management to account.

Read More: Trade union representing Muckamore nurses backs calls for independent inquiry

The author of that review, Dr Margaret Flynn, is to "facilitate" the meeting which will be held tonight.

Letters were sent to parents and carers last week, stating that the trust's chairman, Peter McNaney and its chief executive, Martin Dillon were inviting them to "discuss proposals and plans to respond to the recommendations of the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report (by Dr Margaret Flynn)".

It adds: "The need to significantly improve communications and involvement with families on all aspects of treatment and care of their vulnerable family (member) is a priority area."

The correspondence was issued a week after seven Muckamore nurses had their temporary suspensions lifted in the High Court due to a lack evidence from the trust.

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

The regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), had imposed the 18-month ban last August after receiving a referral from the trust's director of nursing about the seven individuals - who were linked to alleged abuse of patients in the hospital's Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit.

The NMC had requested CCTV footage from the trust but it was not forwarded.

At a separate court hearing last Thursday - in which a further two nurses began legal action to have their bans overturned - a lawyer for the PSNI said they were currently not prepared to disclose CCTV footage.

Belfast health trust has confirmed in a statement to the Irish News that they were unaware the High Court hearing involving seven of their employees was taking place on February 8 - and had no representatives in court.

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One parent said he was "astounded" the trust had no idea the legal challenge was taking place "when it was the trust who had referred the nurses to the NMC in the first place".

A trust spokesman said: "The High Court judgment (on Friday, February 8) related to the NMC suspension of seven members of staff. The Trust was not notified of the High Court proceedings and did not attend. Those staff remain suspended by the Trust. We are working with the NMC and PSNI to provide additional evidence as requested."

Read More: Timeline of Muckamore abuse investigation

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