Belfast Telegraph

Antrim hospital staff charged with assaulting mentally-ill patients

By Adrian Rutherford

Two members of care staff at a hospital are facing allegations that they assaulted and ill-treated mentally ill patients.

The claims relate to staff and five female patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim.

The case is before Antrim Magistrates Court with the women charged with a total of 13 offences.

Margaret Hill (53), of Gateside Mews, Ballyclare, is charged with five counts of ill-treating four patients, and assaulting two of them.

The co-accused is Karen Hayes, also 53, of Barra Street, Antrim. She is charged with four counts of ill-treating three patients and two counts of assaulting one of them.

Both deny all the charges.

The offences are alleged to have occurred on dates between October 9 and November 7, 2012. There are a total of five alleged victims, all of whom are female.

Two are alleged to be victims of both Hayes and Hill.

The accused have pleaded not guilty to all charges and their case will be heard as a contest. They are due back in court next month. Muckamore Abbey falls under the remit of Belfast Health Trust.

The Belfast Telegraph asked if the alleged incidents were under investigation, or if the accused have been suspended or remain in their roles.

In response, a spokesperson said: "Belfast Trust cannot discuss individual staff members.

"Belfast Trust regards the health and welfare of its service users to be of paramount concern.

"Any allegation or reported concern is therefore fully investigated in accordance with trust policy and procedures."

There are 150 patients in Muckamore Abbey and those admitted are usually over 18 years old.

Its website describes it as providing inpatient assessment and treatment facilities for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs, forensic needs or challenging behaviour.

The majority of people admitted to Muckamore Abbey are detained under the Mental Health Order.

Last year concerns were raised about patient experiences.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) said an inspection of one ward – Moylena – in June 2012 highlighted particularly distressing failings in basic care for patients.

The report's findings or observations are not linked in any way to the case before the courts.

Nor is there any suggestion the accused are connected in any way to the incidents recorded in the RQIA report.

PROFILE

Muckamore Abbey in Antrim handles patients who are over 18 years. On its website the hospital is described as providing inpatient assessment and treatment facilities for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs, forensic needs or challenging behaviour. Referrals come from GPs to the consultant psychiatrist.

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