Northern Ireland news

Health minister Robin Swann 'moving towards decision' on Muckamore probe

Health minister Robin Swann has come under pressure to make a decision on an inquiry into abuse allegations at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Picture by Mark Marlow
Seanín Graham

HEALTH minister Robin Swann has said he is "determined to establish a process to deliver answers on what went wrong at Muckamore" and is "moving towards a decision on the way forward".

The Irish News asked the minister if he would appoint Professor Gabriel Scally to head up an inquiry into the Muckamore Abbey Hospital abuse scandal following his private offer to permanent secretary Richard Pengelly last summer.

At the time Mr Pengelly said a decision to establish an inquiry is for a minister to take but he would "bring it to the attention of any incoming minister to inform their decision on the way forward".

When asked in a press query if Mr Swann would consider Professor Scally's request given the medic's expertise in leading major reviews across the NHS and in the Republic in the wake of serious health service failings, the minister didn't address the question.

He also did not indicate what form any probe could take.

In a statement, he said: "I am determined to establish a process to deliver answers on what went wrong at Muckamore and I am moving towards a decision on the way forward in this regard.

"I have met with families of Muckamore patients, and with police, and have sought legal advice. I would again emphasise that any process must respect the ongoing PSNI investigation."

Mr Swann also responded to Prof Scally's criticism of delays in implementing inquiry recommendations, specifically those of the hyponatraemia report, saying the absence of an assembly and executive for three years has "had a major impact on the timescale for implementation".

He added: "That is a matter of real regret."

Mr Swann said he has stated publicly as minister that I wishes to see significant steps towards implementation of the O'Hara inquiry recommendations.

"A number of the recommendations require executive approval and legislation. These include the introduction of a statutory duty of candour and the creation of an Independent Medical Examiner post."

Relatives of vulnerable Muckamore patients affected by abuse allegations have made repeated calls for a public inquiry.

Mr Swann was one of five representatives from the north's main political parties who endorsed the establishment of a public inquiry last summer after the Department of Health said at the time it was "not in the public interest" .

A total of 40 staff have been suspended from the Co Antrim hospital following viewing of CCTV footage by detectives, while there have been been six arrests.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news