Belfast Telegraph

Smith apologises to families of Muckamore patients

Secretary of State Julian Smith
Secretary of State Julian Smith

By Michael McHugh

The Secretary of State has apologised to families over abuse at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

Julian Smith yesterday met with the father of a patient who is among those at the centre of the investigation into abuse at the facility.

The meeting with Glynn Brown, whose son Aaron was allegedly assaulted by hospital staff, was the first time the Northern Ireland Secretary had heard first hand from those involved in the case.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: "The Secretary of State was grateful for the meeting with Mr Brown and was very sorry to hear of his case, and the many others, where there are allegations of very serious abuse.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further on a private meeting."

An independent review has now concluded that improvements are needed in leadership and management at Muckamore.

An expert report was commissioned in September 2017 after reports of inappropriate behaviour and alleged physical abuse of patients by staff in two wards.

Reviewers raised concerns about the safeguarding of adults, provision of meaningful activities for patients and physical health care.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which commissioned the report, did not publish the draft document but confirmed it had suspended 13 members of staff. It said: "We want to place on record our sincere apologies to those patients and their families affected by staff behaviours which fell significantly below professional standards and were unacceptable."

On Monday, senior Trust staff met with families to discuss the findings and draft recommendations of the report into safeguarding at the care facility.

Ongoing investigations are being carried out by the PSNI and social workers.

The Trust statement said: "We are actively working on improving leadership and management arrangements at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, with the goal of ensuring that the voices of patients, family carers, advocates and others are clearly and effectively part of the future arrangements in Muckamore Abbey Hospital."

A director oversight group led by the director of nursing and the director of adult, social and primary care is in place. The Trust separately commissioned a fully independent team to undertake a review of the broader factors in play at Muckamore, to provide a clear picture of what happened and to make recommendations on how to improve safeguarding.

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