New nursing managers sought at hospital at centre of abuse probe

A recruitment drive is underway at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

A 'TRANSFORMATION' manager is being sought to overhaul a hospital at the centre of a major abuse probe - as two of its most senior nursing staff are no longer in post.

The Irish News has learned the new job is being created at Muckamore Abbey hospital close to Antrim town, two months after serious allegations of patient abuse emerged and more than a dozen of its staff were suspended.

The inpatient facility, which treats adults with severe learning disabilities from across Northern Ireland, is being investigated by police and the Belfast trust as part of a joint safeguarding investigation.

Sources say an extensive recruitment drive is underway for experienced management staff as well as newly qualified nursing graduates from Queen's University in Belfast.

Plans for a music therapist and increased use of physiotherapists and occupational therapists as well as specialist hydrotherapy for patients in swimming pools are also being discussed.

The search for new employees is taking place as detectives continue to comb through archive CCTV footage from last year, in which Muckamore staff appear to be striking vulnerable patients in a psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

More than 70 alleged incidents of ill-treatment are being investigated by the PSNI while two files are "under consideration" by the Public Prosecution Service.

The Irish News asked the trust, which is responsible for Muckamore, to confirm whether two of the hospital's top nurses had moved to other posts or retired.

Queries around the appointment of a 'hospital transformation manager' were also put forward.

A trust spokeswoman said she was "unable to comment on individual staff members" but confirmed plans for a new staffing regime were in place.

"We are looking at current workforce arrangements in Muckamore and have in place a director oversight group led by the Director of Nursing and the Director of Adult, Social and Primary Care," she said.

Concerns have been raised by some relatives of patients affected, with one father saying he had been "kept in the dark" and he only learned of the scandal through the media.

Since The Irish News first reported the allegations and unprecedented level of nursing suspensions, senior bosses from Muckamore have visited family members in their homes to inform them of updates about the case.

A trust spokeswoman added: "As part of our robust investigation into this we have reviewed all the CCTV footage and we continue to keep in contact with the families of those patients involved in the safeguarding incidents. As there is an ongoing adult safeguarding investigation into Muckamore we are unable to provide any further information at this time."

But one father last night said he was "very concerned" at the length of time the probes are taking and about the lack of prosecutions or accountability.

"When you compare this to the Winterbourne View care home in Bristol, where staff were jailed a year after secret CCTV footage showed abuse, I don't understand why it it taking so long here. These investigations started last September - yet there's still been no arrests," he said.

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