Northern Ireland news

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

A report into alleged abuse of Muckamore patients seven years ago that was first made public in The Irish News is to be given to families.  Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

A CONFIDENTIAL report into alleged abuse of Muckamore patients seven years ago that was first made public in The Irish News is to be given to families.

It has emerged that relatives were given a synopsis - deemed to be "more positive" - of a 2013 investigation into the all-female 'Ennis ward' after its details were leaked to this newspaper in October.

However, minutes from a meeting held last month reveal one of the report's main authors felt the edited version "omitted the findings that were of more concern".

One of the most disturbing incidents detailed in the 'unedited' Ennis probe relates to a "very distressed" female patient witnessed leaving a bathroom naked with blood coming from her mouth, screaming: "I hate her (staff member) she hit me".

Another vulnerable patient is also told to "get the f*** out of my face" by an employee.

Authors also expressed concern that "alleged behaviours" were "happening openly in front of visiting staff" in November 2012 - five years before CCTV exposed almost identical allegations on a different ward and which led to the current PSNI investigation.

Sources say the report, known as the 'Ennis Ward Adult Safeguarding Investigation', re-surfaced at the Belfast trust recently with questions being asked about its content - and "how this could have happened again".

There was no CCTV in Ennis. The ward is now closed.

At a high-level "Muckamore Departmental Assurance Group" (MDAG) meeting last month - which was attended by top Department of Health officials - the north's most senior nurse, Charlotte McArdle, proposed that the "full report should be circulated" to families.

Minutes seen by The Irish News describe families' "shock" upon learning about the alleged abuse at Ennis, which led to two arrests and one conviction.

Read more: Family members offer to help out at Muckamore on Christmas Day

The 2013 report's author Aine Morrisson described her "concern" about the handling of the report's release to relatives:

"(Ms) Morrison advised the group that she had been the designated officer in the safeguarding investigation and that the original report was a summary report of a complex safeguarding investigation. She had concerns that the conclusions summarised in the synopsis included the more positive findings but omitted the findings that were of more concern.

"Charlotte McArdle (the Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland) acknowledged the learning for all involved, and proposed that the full report should be circulated to the group.

"Ms Morrison advised members that the investigation had been conducted with the PSNI under Adult Safeguarding Joint Protocol arrangements, and accordingly the PSNI’s views on disclosure of the report should be sought."

The north's most senior social worker, Sean Holland, "gave a commitment" at the meeting that "all requests" for information received by MDAG would, "in the interests of transparency and building trust" be responded to in line with "all relevant information management legislation".

Read more: Confidential NHS investigation reveals whistleblower raised alarm about Muckamore abuse seven years ago


Charlotte McArdle Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland picture. Picture by Bill Smyth 

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