Northern Ireland

Muckamore hospital: Two staff referred over their parenting

A sign outside Muckamore Abbey Hospital
Image caption There are allegations that vulnerable patients were physically and mentally abused at the hospital

Two staff suspended from Muckamore Abbey Hospital over abuse allegations have been referred to social services in relation to the care of their own children, BBC News NI can reveal.

They are among 20 Muckamore employees suspended while police investigate allegations that staff abused patients.

The County Antrim hospital caters for vulnerable adults with severe learning disabilities and mental health needs.

It has also emerged that the Department of Health has ordered a new review.

The hospital is run by the Belfast Health Trust, and the trust had planned to organise a leadership and governance review into what happened at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

However, the Department of Health has stepped in instead and it has now instructed the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency (PHA) to appoint a review team and produce an estimate of the costs.

Allegations of maltreatment of vulnerable patients by some members of staff at Muckamore began to surface in 2017.

Over the past two years, several investigations and reviews have been carried out, focusing on claims that patients were subjected to physical assault, verbal and mental abuse and neglect.

Image caption In December 2018, a report about Muckamore Abbey Hospital listed a series of catastrophic failings

Last month, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said CCTV footage recorded at the hospital had revealed 1,500 crimes on just one ward at Muckamore.

Officers investigating allegations of abuse are continuing to view thousands of hours of CCTV.

In relation to the two staff members who have been referred to social services, a PSNI spokesperson told BBC News NI that due to the sensitive nature of the issue, and the wider criminal investigation into Muckamore, they would not be able to comment further.

Appointment questioned

In separate developments, Belfast Trust has provided an update on the changing employment status of two senior members of its staff - a doctor and a manager - who were involved in the management of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

One of them, Esther Rafferty, had been a service manager of the trust's Hospital Services, and she had been due to start a job on Monday as a mental health trainer with the Department of Health.

However, members of a group of parents and friends of Muckamore Abbey Hospital patients questioned her appointment.

They wrote to the most senior civil servant in the Department of Health, Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly, raising their objections to Ms Rafferty's new role.

At meeting at Stormont on Friday, the group was told that her appointment would not be proceeding.

In a statement to BBC News NI, a Department of Health spokesperson confirmed that a secondment to the post of Mental Capacity Act trainer which was due to start this week will not now commence.

Stepping down

The second Belfast trust employee whose role is changing is Dr Colin Milliken, who will no longer be managing staff, but will continue to see patients.

A Belfast Health Trust statement said that "for personal reasons, and after careful consideration over several months, Dr Colin Milliken has decided to step down from his managerial role in Intellectual Disability Services - which includes Muckamore Abbey Hospital".

It added: "This will enable him to focus on patient care and he remains an active and valued member of the consultant body of Belfast Trust."

Related Topics

More on this story