Healthcare news

53 patients still at Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Muckamore Abbey Hospital, Co Antrim Picture Mal McCann.
Michael McHugh, PA

Fifty-three patients remain at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.

A target to resettle everyone by now in community care has been missed and Mr Swann acknowledged it had probably not been achievable within that time frame.

He said the authorities did not want to cause undue distress if placements did not work out.

The minister said: "One size will not fit all and at the heart of this the welfare of patients is paramount."

Muckamore treats people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.

Read More: Man arrested over Muckamore Abbey probe

Police are probing claims of physical and mental abuse of patients in the psychiatric intensive care unit in 2017-18.

At one stage more than 220 people were living at the hospital.

Professor David Bamford led a 2002 review which presented compelling evidence of the need for a comprehensive reform and modernisation of mental health services in the north.

Relatives of vulnerable patients allegedly abused in Muckamore have urged the health minister to call a public inquiry.

Read more: Whistleblower probe into alleged abuse at Muckamore seven years ago finally to be given to families - after first being leaked to Irish News

Police suspect 1,500 criminal assaults over a number of months in a ward with six beds in the Co Antrim hospital.

Mr Swann said he was still considering whether to order a public inquiry, adding such a choice had to be properly informed.

West Belfast assembly member Pat Sheehan said: "I hope the minister has the requisite funding to ensure that as many patients as possible can be resettled in the community.

"That will require bespoke support services within the community and, in many instances, bespoke accommodation also."

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