Starved and neglected... Dunmurry report lifts lid on abuse of residents
Some of Northern Ireland's most vulnerable people suffered starvation, sexual abuse and shocking neglect at a care home, a damning report has found.
Eddie Lynch, Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Older People, published the results of a 16-month investigation into conditions at Dunmurry Manor on the outskirts of west Belfast.
Among his findings were resident-on-resident sexual assaults with female residents afraid to leave their rooms, residents going without medication for up to three weeks and alarming weight loss, with one person losing 10-stone over a five-month period, and pressure sores so deep the bone of a resident was exposed.
It emerged that relatives of residents were forced to buy continence pads as Runwood only provided "the cheapest of the cheap" and nurses bought their own blood pressure monitors because ones provided by Runwood were broken.
Mr Lynch also told the assembled families and media in Belfast yesterday morning that countless agency staff worked for one day at the facility and refused to return because it was so dangerous.
Revealing his devastating findings, Mr Lynch said: "There is no doubt many people were neglected and abused, with some spending their last few months living in appalling conditions.
"Some family members put it to me they felt their loved ones were simply left to die."
He continued his withering attack by saying: "What sort of a system do we have where a care home can receive more than £2m from a health trust but the company can't afford an extra £10 in their budget to give older people continence pads?
"That's the reality of the regime in place."
Mr Lynch said he was particularly concerned that the failings were happening while the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) deemed that conditions at the home were safe.
He hit out at the ability of the RQIA to uncover failings at care homes across Northern Ireland and said he could not guarantee the safety of people living in care homes now.
"The current system is broken and too slow to react," he said.
"We need a regulatory body that takes immediate and robust action to hold care homes to account when they are failing."
Responding to the report, the RQIA said it has already taken steps to ensure people are more aware of its role and it will examine the recommendations in full.
Mr Lynch was also critical of health officials and said the ordeal faced by residents at Dunmurry Manor was a direct result of a lack of action following an investigation into another care home, Cherry Tree Nursing Home in Carrickfergus.
A series of recommendations to improve safety levels in care homes were made in 2014 following a hard hitting report by an independent investigation panel.
Meanwhile, Professor John Williams, who assisted with the inquiry, said: "There were many, many breaches of human rights.
"There were examples of inhumane and degrading treatment, a lack of respect and dignity for residents.
"People didn't even feel safe."
He said a particular concern that had arisen had been the absence of legal framework in Northern Ireland when it comes to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults.
The Department of Health said it would study the report and provide a comprehensive response.
"We published the two independent assessments this week, providing assurance to residents and their families on current care standards," it said,
"The second report detailed the work by RQIA to ensure the implementation of necessary improvements."