Belfast Telegraph

Health boss 'shocked and appalled' at CCTV of Muckamore Abbey

Muckamore Abbey
Muckamore Abbey
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

The head of Northern Ireland's health service has said that he was "shocked and appalled" after viewing CCTV image of Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

Department of Health (DoH) permanent secretary Richard Pengelly made the comments at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on Wednesday.

More than 20 staff have been suspended due to concerns surrounding safeguarding procedures at the hospital.

A report commissioned by the Belfast Trust to examine safeguarding procedures over the five years up to 2017 discovered a "culture of tolerating harm" at Muckamore.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that police had been called to the hospital 130 times in nearly five years. There were 31 incidents of patient assaults on staff reported to the PSNI.

Mr Pengelly told Labour MP Kate Hoey that he believed issues at the hospital had been addressed.

"I'm confident that what is happening today has fundamentally changed from the behaviour that has happened," he said.

"I cannot say with complete confidence that we know everything that happened, because I still have colleagues reviewing all the available CCTV evidence.

"I've looked at some of the CCTV evidence and I was shocked and appalled in some cases by what I saw."

Ms Hoey asked Mr Pengelly if he believed a public inquiry should be held into goings on at the hospital.

Kate Hoey
Kate Hoey

"I wouldn't be able to initiate a public inquiry, that could only be done by the Assembly or the Secretary of State," he replied.

"The point I made to the families was that if a public inquiry was initiated today, it would have to adjourn until the police investigation concludes.

"The police investigation is ongoing, I met with senior officers last Friday, primarily to offer them any and all support we could."

Mr Pengelly said that Muckamore Abbey was an individual case due to the patients at the home.

"I don't say this is any way to excuse what happened but there are a very, very challenging set of behaviours happening at Muckamore due to the patient cohort, that said they absolutely must be treated with respect, courtesy and have dignity at all times. Anything less than that is unacceptable," the health boss said.

"I think the public inquiry wouldn't be able to move at this stage. I am not saying there shouldn't be a public inquiry, I am saying I think the time to answer that question will be when the police investigation has concluded, and hopefully there will be a minister in place to do that.

Ms Hoey asked if systems were in place to stop similar abuse happening in other parts of Northern Ireland.

"It would be difficult to give an absolute, categorically sure that is the case, I sincerely hope that is the case," Mr Pengelly replied.

"I have made the points to Chief Executives of all (health) trusts, I have wrote to trust Chief Executives to bring them in specifically for a summit on this, cultural issues.

"I would say I think Muckamore is different to any other institution we have given the patient cohort. I am assured the culture and attitude has changed, what's happening today is different from the period under review.

"The main reason for meeting with trust Chief Executives is to develop an action plan to make good on my commitment that a year from now nobody will call Muckamore their home, we have people that have been there for far, far too long."

Meanwhile, Mr Pengelly told Ms Hoey that he had only had one meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley since she took office.

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