Belfast Telegraph

'Someone is going to get killed' at Muckamore Abbey Hospital warns Belfast Trust whistleblower

Whistleblower tells of 'rampant violent assaults' on staff

By Andrew Madden, local democracy reporter

A whistleblower at a Co Antrim hospital has warned “someone is going to get killed” if “serious issues” at the facility are not dealt with by senior management.

Issues detailed by the well-placed insider include ‘rampant’ violent assaults on staff by patients and a “dangerous work environment” at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

Muckamore Abbey Hospital, just outside Antrim town, provides inpatient, assessment and treatment facilities for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs, forensic needs or challenging behaviour.

Over the past year, several staff have been suspended for a variety of safeguarding issues.

The source, who did not want to be named, has worked at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, which is run by the Belfast Trust, for several years as a nursing assistant.

Six other workers, who gave testimony under the condition they remain anonymous, corroborated the whistleblower’s account.

“Someone is going to get killed in that place,” the whistleblower said.

“Morale is worse than it has ever been in all the years I’ve worked there, even if you witness an incident of any sort, regardless of your involvement - you will be suspended.

“Everyone is walking around with that over their head, staff are being violently assaulted on a day to day basis and nothing is being done. It can’t go on. Someone will end up being killed.”

Another source, who works in one ward at the Co Antrim hospital, said it “isn’t small bites and cuts and bruises we’re talking about”.

“It’s broken bones and severe trauma that I doubt some staff will ever really get over. When dealing with vulnerable people, those with severe learning difficulties and such, you expect the odd slap and things like that - but not this.

“Massive chunks of hair pulled out, multiple cases of broken bones and severe bites requiring stitches - I do not see a future for Muckamore.

Another insider, who has retired in recent years but still works occasionally at the facility, said once a staff member reports an assault to the PSNI, the PPS are reluctant to prosecute due to the image of publicly prosecuting a patient.

“While I agree with that sentiment, this process is leaving staff with the feeling that they have to go into work each day thinking they might get severely hurt and nothing will ever be done to prevent it happening again.”

“Muckamore is in a crisis - there’s more agency staff now, following different protocols, than there has ever been. More support for staff is what’s needed. Patients and staff are being failed on a massive scale.”

Another senior official at Muckamore said they have witnessed ‘horrifying and emotionally traumatic’ incidents on staff, including broken noses, legs, ‘severe cuts’ and psychological trauma.

“At the end of the day, at I am not exaggerating here, I could see someone - like a staff member - taking their own life due the current environment at Muckamore.

“I mean, how can we, or anyone for that matter, be expected to work in these conditions - the stress and morale is off the scale in the worst way and it’s getting completely ridiculous and downright reckless, something needs to be done now.

“We get the worst of the worst, that no one else can deal with, and get treated like this? It’s not right and what happens when it gets so bad we no one can continue working there - because that’s what going to happen.”

When asked about the allegations detailed by the six sources at Muckamore, the Belfast Trust responded with a brief statement, acknowledging there are issues at the hospital.

“Belfast Trust can confirm that a number of staff are currently placed on precautionary suspension; following a number of safeguarding investigations,” they said.

“The Trust has a number of mechanisms available to provide staff with support.  These include Trust Occupational Health Services, Staffcare Services and an independent Counselling Support for Learning Disability Staff.”

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