Inquiry into alleged staff abuse of vulnerable patients in NI hospital

Health minister orders statutory public inquiry into Muckamore Abbey Hospital

 Health Minister Robin Swann: said he could not ‘find words to adequately describe the scale of this betrayal of trust, this scandal.’ Photograph:  Matt Mackey/PA Wire

Health Minister Robin Swann: said he could not ‘find words to adequately describe the scale of this betrayal of trust, this scandal.’ Photograph: Matt Mackey/PA Wire

 

A public inquiry is to be held into allegations of abuse of vulnerable patients by staff at a hospital near Antrim.

The North’s health minister, Robin Swann, told the Assembly on Tuesday that he was ordering a statutory public inquiry into Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

The hospital provides treatment for people with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.

Last year, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it was investigating 1,500 cases of alleged physical and mental abuse of vulnerable adult patients in one ward at the hospital.

A police investigation is ongoing and a total of eight people have been arrested, the most recent on Monday, when a 57-year-old woman was detained in the Antrim area.

Announcing the inquiry, Mr Swann said he could not “find words to adequately describe the scale of this betrayal of trust, this scandal.”

He said he wanted to apologise again on behalf of the Health and Social Care system “to patients and families who have been let down by failure to protect patients from abuse.

“But families want more than apologies. They want and need and deserve answers as to why this happened and how it was allowed to happen - and I hope that the public inquiry I have announced today will give them those answers,” he said.

“This abuse should never have happened and I will do all that I can to make sure it never happens again.”

The public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally, who campaigned for a public inquiry, told the BBC that the number of potential cases of abuse at Muckamore was greater “than I’ve ever come across.”

He said the investigation should be “rapid, it should be thorough, it should be fearless and it should tell the truth and it should apologise. It should absolutely make sure that all those involved receive a full and frank apology and it should never ever happen again.”

The inquiry was welcomed by all of the political parties in the Northern Executive.