Muckamore Patients ‘Put At Risk’

Shocking revelations of how patients in Muckamore Abbey hospital are being put at risk are contained in a dossier obtained by the BBC. The health service paper was sought under the Freedom of Information Act.

It shows how there was an insufficient number of staff at the hospital to open two new blocks. To free up staff, some existing wards were closed, but that meant some patients being put in with others who could pose a danger to them.

The dossier says: “In order to close two wards, people who for very good reason have not lived together in the past, will be required to do so. Risk assessments indicate that vulnerable people will have to share living accommodation with those who may be a danger to them. “

There are numerous references to an “unacceptably high level of risk” and that a “reasonably safe environment cannot be confidently assured.” However, the dossier does also say everything possible will be done “within existing resources” to minimise the risk.

After viewing the dossier, Maureen Piggot of learning disability charity Mencap, said: “It looks like decisions were made on costs and numbers, rather than the details of patient need and profile and monitoring of the specific risks that were mentioned.”

BBC NI health correspondent Dot Kirby said: “Ms Piggot called for the Mental Health Commission or the Human Rights Commission to look at what was happening at Muckamore to ensure the safety, and protect the rights, of patients. Muckamore came under the media spotlight earlier this year when the BBC revealed that more than 100 patients in the hospital were stuck there for an average of three and a half years after their treatment was completed.

“The BBC also found out at that time that 17 patients in the hospital had been locked up – even though they had never been assessed as needing secure accommodation. That happened because their wards closed – and there was nowhere else for them to go – but into a locked ward.”

Since then, Health Minister Paul Goggins has ordered that one ward at the hospital should reopen in June. It will mean those 17 patients will then live in unlocked accommodation again.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it was satisfied that risks in Muckamore were being well managed. It said it had been assured by the trust and health Boards that all patients there at the moment were safe. It said all risk could not be eliminated, but no-one in the hospital was in a setting which posed a risk to them or to other patients.

The health trust which governs Muckamore, the Eastern Health Board and Northern Health Board were all asked to comment, but all three said they had no-one available.