Belfast trust to 're-investigate' disappearance of west Belfast dementia patient from nursing home
NORTHERN Ireland's biggest health trust has ordered a fresh investigation into the case of a vulnerable man who went missing from a nursing home following a string of failings in the original probe.
In an unusual development, a Belfast trust manager has written to the daughter of 90-year-old dementia patient James Devine to confirm it has commissioned a "re-investigation" due to family concerns about the "thoroughness" of the first report.
Mr Devine, who suffers from advanced dementia, disappeared from the trust-owned Colinvale home in west Belfast last November and was discovered by a stranger in Andersonstown.
The great-grandfather was reportedly missing for hours, with thousands of people sharing concerned posts on social media about his distressed state.
A safeguarding investigation was ordered after Mr Devine's family said no-one contacted them following his disappearance.
Last month The Irish News reported on further blunders after it emerged the final report was sent to the wrong family, with the trust admitting it had committed a "data breach". Officials apologised for the mistake and confirmed they informed the Information Commissioner.
Mr Devine's daughter, Kate McDonald, said she received a letter last month confirming a new investigation will take place into the family's "original concerns".
The August 17 trust correspondence states a "re-investigation will proceed" under a newly appointed "adult protection officer".
However, Mrs McDonald - who only found about her father's disappearance after a woman contacted her on Facebook - said she has "no confidence" in the trust.
"Apparently they don't normally re-do safeguarding reports and I am very angry about how this has been handled. We still have no idea what happened to my father that day or if it had ever happened before," she said.
"We were never interviewed or consulted about the original trust investigation. They've told us we'll be included in the new one. There's been lots of meetings and emails with me and my three sisters but it's now ten months on and we'd like answers.
"My father was just seven weeks in the home when it happened. We rang them immediately and asked why they hadn't contacted us or if they knew if was missing. His condition severely deteriorated in the home and he lost lots of weight.
"We will never know how traumatised he was by the incident but he became very ill afterwards."
Ms McDonald said she dreads to think what could have happened if it hadn't been for the "kindness of a stranger". He is now being cared for in a new home and is in better health.
"I was tagged in a post by a woman, asking: 'is this your dad'. She had taken a photo of him in her armchair with a cup of tea after after bringing him in off the streets and keeping him warm."
The first trust report, seen by The Irish News, states that although the investigation team were unable to ascertain the exact time the pensioner left Colinvale, it was "apparent" there were "issues regarding the accuracy of information provided by the nursing home staff and records, and in terms of the documentation and appropriate follow up of the incident".