Northern Ireland news

Minister ‘considering options' for future of Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Muckamore Abbey Hospital, Co Antrim. Picture by Mal McCann
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Health Minister Robin Swann said he is considering options for the future role of Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim.

He was commenting on an independent review of the learning disability resettlement programme in Northern Ireland.

The review was commissioned to examine oversight arrangements for resettling patients from Muckamore and other learning disability hospitals.

The hospital, for adults with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs, has been at the centre of the UK’s largest police investigation into the alleged abuse of vulnerable adults.

A public inquiry is also currently ongoing into allegations of abuse at Muckamore.

Mr Swann said: “As the resettlement programme at Muckamore Abbey progresses, the reducing number of in-patients at the hospital will inevitably raise questions about the future configuration of services on the site.

“I am considering options for the future role of the hospital, and I will make a further statement on this in the coming weeks.

“It is increasingly clear that the time when a large isolated specialist hospital of this kind was the correct model has passed.

“Decisions will have to be made, sooner rather than later, to secure a better future.”

He added: “My priority continues to be the safety and well-being of all those who use the services provided on the Muckamore site, and any decisions about the future of these will only be taken in consultation with patients and their families.”

The resettlement programme review examined the rate of progress towards delivering resettlement outcomes for patients whose discharge has been delayed.

It found that policy and strategy in Northern Ireland for people with learning disabilities and their families is in urgent need of updating, and that an updated strategy should consolidate the long-standing goal that no-one should call a hospital their home.

Mr Swann said the review must act as a catalyst to radically improve the rate of progress on resettlement and said he had accepted all of its recommendations.

He said he had agreed to the establishment of a regional resettlement oversight board, to be chaired by Dr Patricia Donnelly.

Dr Donnelly previously took charge of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.