Northern Ireland

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

Martin Dillion, chief executive of Belfast Trust, has spoken publicly about the Muckamore abuse crisis for the first time
Martin Dillion, chief executive of Belfast Trust, has spoken publicly about the Muckamore abuse crisis for the first time

AN apology from the head of the Belfast Trust for events in relation to Muckamore Abbey Hospital does not go far enough, it has been claimed.

Eighteen months after an investigation into the Antrim facility was launched, the chief executive of the Belfast Trust - which is responsible for the hospital - spoke publicly about issues for the first time this week.

Martin Dillon said that while he accepted "the buck rests with me", he would not resign.

He spoke this week after meeting families of patients in the hospital.

Police are investigating 158 incidents of alleged ill treatment of patients. Nineteen staff - mainly nurses - remain suspended by the trust. Police are examining 240,000 hours of CCTV footage as part of an investigation into alleged abuse.

Belfast Trust has been castigated over its failure to provide information about the ill-treatment of patients, with one parent resorting to using Freedom of Information legislation to get details on 48 incidents linked to abuse of his son by healthcare professionals.

This week, after meeting the families of 25 patients, Mr Dillon said he was "resolved to make things right".

"We have let families down and we will put this right," he said.

"Some of the care failings in Muckamore are a source of shame, but my primary focus is on putting things right. I have been very clear, any member of staff, whether a practitioner or a manager who is found responsible for wrongdoing will be held to account by my organisation.

"Incidents witnessed on CCTV were not reported to management and site management - they were kept invisible from management."

Mr Dillon added: "It may be that when you have an institution like Muckamore where staff have been there a long time a complacency sets in.

"The report also highlights the fact that while patients make very many allegations of abuse, there probably was a tendency on the part of my organisation not to lend credibility to those. So those are all huge learning points for this organisation.

"I accept there was a delay in our reporting of some of these matters to the Department of Health. But the reason for that was that there was a delay in these matters coming to the attention of very senior management."

Mr Dillon said his meeting with the families had been "very constructive".

However, Sinn Féin health spokesman, Pat Sheehan last night said Mr Dillon's apology did "not go anywhere near far enough to resolving the issues around Muckamore".

"It's alright for him to say he will fix it, unfortunately, the trust are actually part of the problem and it's not within their gift to fix it," he said.

"We are supporting the families' call for a full blown inquiry into Muckamore and the events surrounding it."