BBC News

Muckamore Hospital issues go back decades

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC News NI Health Correspondent

Published
media captionMuckamore Hospital issues go back decades

Some news stories can only be described as grim.

Sadly, one of them is the ongoing Muckamore Abbey Hospital scandal.

While the detail surrounding the current allegations of mental and physical abuse have been a wake-up call, viewing 20-year-old BBC archive material on the same issue has been disheartening.

No doubt the care and resettlement of vulnerable people is challenging.

Locked up

While more than 2,000 men and women have already been resettled in the community, 80 remain living in a hospital.

Thirty-eight of them are ready to leave, but there is nowhere for them to go in the community, therefore they remain locked up.

Reporting on Muckamore in 2019 - including its seclusion room and staffing - triggered a trawl through old BBC news footage.

In the mid-1990s, my predecessor Dot Kirby was also reporting on the use of seclusion rooms. While I was refused access to film, Dot managed to get in.

image captionThe lack of funding to resettle patients was reported on by the BBC in 2007

Looking through the pictures, someone glancing over my shoulder in the newsroom asked why I'd been filming in a prison.

I explained that they weren't prison shots, but internal images of Muckamore in the '90s.

In a news report in 2007, Dot reported on the lack of funding to resettle patients. Twelve years on, my own script contains the same line.

So what has been achieved? It would be wrong to say nothing, as thousands of lives have been vastly improved.

image captionA report about Muckamore Abbey Hospital lists a series of catastrophic failings

But the recent safeguarding report highlighted a culture of tolerating harm and lives being compromised. It says some families fear for their loved ones' fate when they are gone.

Much of this was also reported in the 1990s.

'Barrel may be rotten'

The Bamford Review promised and delivered much, but clearly there's still much more to be done.

Nurses, managers and some civil servants have dedicated their lives to caring for vulnerable adults.

But as the former chair of the Bamford review says, recent allegations suggest there's more than just a few bad apples and the barrel may be rotten too.

For the situation to improve, the system needs to be overhauled and that needs recurrent funding.

Let's hope that in the future, there will be no need for my successor to spool through the Muckamore archive again.

Related Topics

  • NI Health
  • Mental health

More on this story

  • Muckamore Abbey report lists 'catastrophic failings'