Northern Ireland news

Trust boss holds his hands up over 'deficient' response to father of Muckamore Abbey Hospital patient

Glynn Brown has received an apology from the Belfast trust over its communication failings in relation to the care of his son. Picture by Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

A BELFAST health trust boss has apologised to the father of a Muckamore patient who was forced to use Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to find out about abuse of his son.

Peter McNaney made the formal apology at a private meeting last Friday after learning Dundonald man Glynn Brown had to send multiple FoI letters as well as 'data access' and 'subject access' requests due to the trust refusing to provide details of a catalogue of alleged ill-treatment.

The DUP's Gavin Robinson, who is Mr Brown's MP, also attended the meeting along with trust chief executive Martin Dillon and other senior officials from the Department of Health.

The East Belfast MP said none of the information requested by his constituent "should ever have been an FoI", saying it was "totally substandard" that he was forced down this route.

Read More: Number of Muckamore incidents probed by police doubles to 300

"They shouldn't have been putting him through that process nor should they be exhausting the time limit of one process to ask him to start another one," he said.

"At the meeting, all of that was accepted to be completely deficient by the trust. It was outrageous and unnecessary and was not what they had agreed previously. They had agreed he would get the information within the constraints of what the police allowed - I pushed back on their interpretation as I thought it was overly cautious.

"They can tell him what happened to his son without mentioning any names of the person involved, they can tell him specifically what happened on each occasion and they have done so on the telephone. They're just reluctant to put it down on paper which doesn't make any sense at all."

Read More: Muckamore father goes public for first time as pressure for public inquiry mounts

During the meeting, which took place at Mr Robinson's offices, Mr Brown told Mr McNaney of his disbelief when he was asked last week to send his driving licence or passport to trust administrators to prove his identity in order to access his records - a measure he said he believed was a "stalling tactic".

His 23-year-old son is non-verbal and suffers from severe learning disabilities. Police are currently investigating 48 incidents linked to his care in the hospital's Psychiatric Intensive Care (PICU) unit in the summer of 2017, including reports of him being punched in stomach by a staff member.

Read More: Timeline of Muckamore abuse investigation

"There has been a drip-feed of information in the form of phone calls from the trust over the past year, when I ask them to put anything in writing they refuse and I have to resort to FoIs, which can be a very lengthy process," Mr Brown said.

"When they asked me to forward my passport after I had asked to see footage of my son escaping from a ward into the hospital carpark before Christmas, I couldn't believe it. Why did they not request these documents 18 months ago when I was forced to start asking questions."

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

A trust spokesman last night said Mr McNaney, who is the trust's chair, had issued the apology "for all the frustrations Mr Brown has clearly felt in accessing information about his son".

"At the meeting we agreed a way forward with Mr Brown and we will endeavour to ensure a more effective way of communicating with him is established," he said.

Read More: Head of Belfast Trust speaks out on Muckamore scandal - 18 months after investigation launched

"Belfast trust is very conscious of the negative impact on all patients, families, and carers affected by issues at the hospital and we are committed to having ongoing constructive conversations with all families and carers."

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

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