Muckamore still failing to meet standards
Muckamore Abbey Hospital is still failing to meet minimum safety standards one year after an abuse scandal at the facility came to light.
Northern Ireland's health watchdog has ordered the Belfast Trust to make a series of improvements after uncovering concerns during a number of inspections in recent months.
During a visit to the hospital in February, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) found there were not enough nursing staff.
The regulator said this meant patients could not be properly monitored and prescribed care, and treatments could not be provided to an adequate level.
The inspectors also raised concerns over the way patient finances and safeguarding procedures were managed.
The RQIA subsequently returned to the hospital on a number of occasions and was not satisfied that previous concerns had been adequately addressed, prompting it to hand the Belfast Trust three improvement notices.
Compliance is required by November 16, however, the RQIA will not say what action it will take if this is not achieved.
Phoenix Law director Claire McKeegan, who represents a number of Muckamore Abbey patients and their families, said RQIA action is long overdue.
She added her clients continue to call for a public inquiry which looks at the failings of all agencies, including the RQIA.
"Many of our clients are still in Muckamore and their families instruct that there are ongoing issues, every week," she said.
"Despite the Permanent Secretary's commitment to rehabilitating all of the patients within a year, we have seen situations where patients have been moved into even more detrimental and dangerous settings and have sustained further harm because of the lack of training and investment put into the support and care plans.
"Families are struggling to cope with the ongoing strain, pressure and lack of support from the trust and are turning to the courts for assistance in the absence of any clear way forward for their loved ones.
"Sadly, we are instructed that many of the patients due to age and other factors have no relatives left to advocate for them."
A PSNI probe is ongoing after Muckamore Abbey hit the headlines after allegations of serious abuse of patients came to light.
Responding to the action taken by the RQIA, a spokesman from the Belfast Trust said patient care at Muckamore Abbey has changed significantly over the last 12 months, including a reduction in the use of seclusion and the introduction of patient health checks, while management has also been improved.
He said the trust has enlisted support from East London NHS Foundation Trust and a full-time carer advocate is also in place.
"However, we are very clear that more remains to be done and we welcome RQIA's improvement notices. Belfast Trust is fully committed to working with RQIA to provide ongoing and detailed assurance," he added.
"The board of Belfast Trust remains assured that the care in Muckamore Abbey Hospital is safe, effective, and compassionate and will continue to do all it can to ensure that patients receive the best possible care."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said officials will continue to work with the trust as it works to improve standards at Muckamore Abbey.