Hospital Plan Disappoints Children’s Commissioner

The NI commissioner for children and young people says she is disappointed by the action plan to address problems at Muckamore Abbey Hospital. The plan, announced by Health Minister Paul Goggins on Monday, aims to address the delayed discharge of children and young people from the hospital. However, Patricia Lewsley said it did not address all the issues.

“I am disappointed the minister has not produced a more comprehensive response,” the commissioner said. “There are many issues that remain, including how community resources will be properly put in place which meet the specific needs of these vulnerable children.”

On Tuesday, Mr Goggins said no child with a learning disability would be living in hospital in two years’ time – the key pledge in the £3m action plan.

A recent BBC investigation disclosed that more than 100 adults and 17 children with learning disabilities were living in hospital unneccesarily.

The new government plan states that by March 2009, no child, and by March 2014, no adult with such disabilities would be in hospital. The BBC looked at the situation at Muckamore hospital in Antrim. It found people with severe learning disabilities were being kept in hospital as there was no money to care for them in the community. One man remained in the unit 10 years after his treatment ended.

Mr Goggins said that 40 people a year should be resettled from the hospital back into the community. He added that action was beginning immediately, with four young people being placed back in the community.

However, Mrs Lewsley said: “We will look carefully at the detail of the action plan. But we are concerned to ensure the proposed £3m is a new resource and is a first commitment in government’s response to properly funding a comprehensive mental health and learning disability service.”