Abuse report author ‘shocked’ after health watchdog chief denies failings at care home
Northern Ireland's health watchdog did not fail despite allowing a care home where residents were subjected to appalling abuse to stay open, it has been claimed.
The head of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) has mounted an extraordinary defence of the organisation after it was slammed for its failure to act to protect the residents of Dunmurry Manor.
Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, published the damning findings of his 16-month investigation into the facility earlier this week.
It revealed a litany of shocking failings at the home, including resident-on-resident sex abuse, people going three weeks without medication, and one resident whose bone was exposed as a result of a pressure sore.
Reacting to the report, former health minister Edwin Poots said: "There was an investigation done four years ago into another care home, Cherry Tree, which should have ensured that similar failings didn't happen again and unfortunately they have.
"I think we have to ask the RQIA questions how these failings have happened again and what assurances can they give to the public that they will not recur?
"The board at the RQIA must sit down and be very, very clear as to how they are going to respond to this, and if they can't come forward with a clear response and I believe that if they can't, then they have to ask themselves what they are doing here.
"If they can't reassure people then they are not meeting their objective and they will completely lose all public confidence."
Despite this, Olive MacLeod, the RQIA's chief executive, has hit out at the report and suggested that Mr Lynch was irresponsible in referring to sex attacks by residents on other residents.
Families of female residents have this week told how their loved ones hid in their bedrooms because they were scared of unwanted attention from male residents.
The commissioner's report gave several examples of this and said relatives of residents felt their concerns were not taken seriously by Dunmurry Manor.
Mr Lynch blamed the sex assaults on the fact that many people were not receiving their required medication, meaning that their behaviour was difficult to manage.
In an astonishing statement issued yesterday, Ms McLeod said: "RQIA does not agree with some of the commissioner's conclusions.
"Most seriously, we found no evidence of institutional abuse and do not believe that the commissioner's findings support this statement.
"RQIA did find instances where the quality of care was not to the expected standard and worked with the management of the home to support improvement and follow-up inspections found that care did get better for a period.
"We do not agree that this meets the definition of institutional abuse.
"In respect of the findings of resident-on-resident sexual assault, RQIA is very concerned at how the commissioner has chosen to present this finding.
"Disinhibited sexualised behaviour is not uncommon in people with dementia.
"For that reason, it is not regarded as criminal activity and is dealt with sensitively by trust safeguarding teams who work closely with care providers to mitigate risks to all residents and to develop care plans that recognise such behaviours as a potential expression of distress.
"RQIA does not believe there is any justification for the commissioner's presentation of this finding and is concerned about the impact on residents and their families."
Julieann McNally, whose grandmother Annie McCourt was a resident at the home in 2016, said: "I don't understand why the RQIA can't hold up its hands and accept its part in what went wrong.
"Until they can apologise and recognise that they did fail, they continue to add to our distress.
"Also, how can we be assured that the RQIA is doing its job properly and residents in other care homes are safe, if they cannot accept any blame?"
Mr Lynch last night said he was "extremely shocked by the tone" of Ms McLeod's statement.
"The investigation does not seek agreement or otherwise from the relevant authorities involved," he said.
"The evidence stands on its own, it was analysed by my team and my panel of experts.
"My Safeguarding and Human Rights expert was in no doubt that the evidence provided supported the finding of concerns of institutional abuse at Dunmurry Manor.
"Health and social care trust documentation submitted in evidence showed trust officials' concerns about this very issue."