Northern Ireland

Muckamore Abbey Hospital closure postponed

Facility at centre of public inquiry and UK’s largest police probe into vulnerable patient abuse had been due to close this month

Muckamore Abbey Hospital
Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Plans to close Muckamore Abbey Hospital this month have been scrapped over the failure to move all remaining patients to alternative accommodation.

Health minister Mike Nesbitt said setting a new proposed closure date is “not helpful to patients or families”.

The June closure date had been set last year by the Department of Health, and was dependent on the resettlement of all patients through “community placements”.

As of February of this year, there were 24 patients remaining in the facility.

Muckamore is at the centre of the UK’s largest ever police investigation into the abuse of vulnerable patients.

An ongoing public inquiry is also taking place.

Allegations of physical and mental abuse at Muckamore Abbey, which is run by the Belfast Health Trust, emerged in 2017.

On Wednesday, Mr Nesbitt said the facility would now remain open for the foreseeable future.

“Much work has been done to find suitable community placements for the remaining in-patients since the announcement of closure,” he said.

“However, it is now clear that not all the remaining patients will be successfully resettled in advance of the proposed closure date.”

Mr Nesbitt said he accepted the “lack of clarity about the immediate future of the hospital is heightening levels of anxiety among the remaining patients and their families about the future arrangements for their care”.

“This uncertainty is also impacting on hospital staff,” he said.

Mr Nesbitt said the planning resettlement timelines for the remaining patients would continue “at pace”.

Sinn Féin social care spokesperson, Mid Ulster MLA Linda Dillon, said: “Vulnerable patients and their families deserve the clarity and security of a permanent, supportive environment.

“The health minister must now work closely with families and carers to establish a definitive closure date for Muckamore, and he should continue to update the Assembly on the progress to ensure transparency, accountability and safety for patients.”