Belfast Telegraph

Police called 130 times to Muckamore Abbey Hospital

Muckamore Abbey has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following the publication of a damning report
Muckamore Abbey has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following the publication of a damning report

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Police have been called out to Muckamore Abbey Hospital 130 times in nearly five years.

It included three occasions when officers were summoned to deal with reports of staff assaults on patients.

There were also 31 incidents of patient assaults on staff being reported to the PSNI.

The Belfast Trust, which has responsibility for Muckamore Abbey, said there were "occasions when it may be necessary to request assistance from the PSNI" and it was operating within a safeguarding policy.

The scandal-hit facility has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks following the release of a report to patients' families which showed a "culture of tolerating harm".

The report also found the lives of patients were "compromised", safeguarding procedures were not followed, a seclusion room at the facility wasn't monitored, and there was a likelihood that patients would be harmed by their peers.

Revelations about conditions and treatment of patients at the hospital have led to calls for a public inquiry.

The BBC reported at the weekend that more than 20 staff have been suspended.

Figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph through a Freedom of Information request show that there were 130 police callouts to Muckamore between January 1, 2014 and July 31 this year.

They included three incidents when police were summoned to deal with reports of staff assaults on patients. There were 31 incidents of police being called for reported patient assaults on staff.

The top five reasons given for the police being called to the facility were:

Assaults by patients on staff.

Assaults by patients on other patients.

Patients being absent with or without consent of staff, but not missing.

Missing patient.

And various contacts from staff reporting patients attending appointments outside the hospital and requests for escorts for more vulnerable patients.

SDLP health spokesman Mark H Durkan said the details which had come to light about the mistreatment of patients at the hospital were "extremely shocking and demonstrate fundamental breaches of the rights of disabled people".

"It is appalling that the PSNI have been called to Muckamore Abbey Hospital due to staff assaults on patients," he said.

"We are talking about very vulnerable human beings, many with the mental capacity of children, being assaulted by staff.

"It is imperative that the trust clarifies what action was taken in relation to these assaults in regards to staff disciplinary measures and the future safeguarding of patients."

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew, who is the party's spokesman for carers and wellbeing, said: "These reports are very concerning.

"Sinn Fein supports families in their call for a public inquiry into the clear failures at Muckamore.

"Families deserve answers, openness, transparency and support at this time and they should be told the truth as soon as possible."

The Belfast Trust said: "Muckamore Abbey Hospital provides acute inpatient care to adults with an intellectual disability, also behavioural or mental ill health.

"Our staff are trained to deal with challenging behaviours and we have an adult safeguarding policy in place which protects the health and well-being of vulnerable people.

"There are occasions when it may be necessary to request assistance from the PSNI.

"Separately, all reported incidents of assaults on patients by staff are fully investigated under the trust's adult safeguarding policy."

At the weekend the trust confirmed that staff shortages have forced it to temporarily close Muckamore's psychiatric intensive care unit.

The BBC reported that more than 20 staff have been suspended, with one nurse saying the situation was at "crisis point". Some charities have said the future of the hospital is now in question.

The trust said: "Due to staff absences, Belfast Trust has taken a decision to temporarily close the psychiatric intensive care unit.

"Our priority is to provide a safe service; to do this we have moved affected patients into other wards."

On Sunday Sinn Fein's Pat Sheehan met with a group of concerned staff from Muckamore Abbey.

Afterwards he said they had raised concerns about staffing levels, a difficult working environment and low morale within the hospital.

Mr Sheehan said he had passed on their concerns to the RQIA regulatory body.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph