Northern Ireland news

Father of patient whose case sparked abuse probe learns '30 incidents' of ill treatment linked to his son's care

The father of a patient at Muckamore Abbey Hospital has described care failings as "horrific" after learning police are investigating 30 allegations of abuse involving his vulnerable son Picture by Mal McCann
Seanin Graham

THE father of a Muckamore patient whose son was allegedly punched in the stomach by a staff member has learned 30 "incidents" are now being probed in relation to his case - after initially being told it was a "one-off".

Following demands for written confirmation of any wrong-doing linked to his 21-year-old son’s care, the Co Down man last month received a letter from a Belfast health trust director informing him a total of 30 incidents have been "forwarded to PSNI for consideration".

Footage from CCTV recordings shows the apparent ill treatment, which relates to a two-and-a-half-month period between June and mid-August last year when the patient was treated in Muckamore's Psychiatric Intensive Care unit (PICU).

The 21-year-old suffers from severe learning disabilities and has the capacity of a two-year-old. He cannot speak.

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A manager at Muckamore contacted his parents last August by telephone to say there had been allegations he was physically assaulted by a health professional two weeks previously.

Senior Muckamore management insisted the incident was a "one-off" and told the family there was no recorded CCTV footage.

However, the father of the patient said he pursued the matter with police and learned that recordings did in fact exist.

"I am horrified by what has happened and the fact it has taken them so long to tell the families about it. My son, who is now doing very well, cannot be discharged because there is no care package for him. We get him home three days a week but he is so distressed when he goes back - just what did they do to him in there?" said the man, who does not wish to be named.

"The fact that there were so many incidents over such a short time frame means my son was being allegedly harmed a couple of times a week. My fear is the longer this goes on the less chance there is of prosecutions."

The father said he only began to get information following the publication of a report in the Irish News in late July.

"There has been a drip feed of information and lots of telephone calls from safeguarding managers. I don't like verbal information and I've been asking for everything in writing. I've even put in Freedom of Information requests to find out what exactly happened to him - I shouldn't have to do that."

The letter from the trust director acknowledges the man has used FoI legislation.

She writes: "I wish to offer my deepest apologies again about the incidents where (your son's) care was inappropriate and unacceptable.

She adds: "There have been 30 incidents involving your son. At present, all of these have been forwarded to the PSNI for consideration. Due to the ongoing police investigation I am unable to give you a pen picture of each incident or the staff involved until the investigations are concluded."

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