Muckamore Abbey Hospital reviews use of ‘dungeon’ room to isloate patients

A criminal investigation into the abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim is continuing
A criminal investigation into the abuse of patients at Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Co Antrim is continuing

The Belfast Trust has said the practice of isolating patients with learning disabilities at a specialist unit in Co Antrim is under review, after a patient’s mother compared a seclusion room to a “dungeon”.

The mother of a severely disabled patient at Muckamore Abbey Hospital told the BBC she was horrified to learn last year that the seclusion room was in use for patients with learning disabilities.

The woman was speaking amid a criminal investigation into the abuse of vulnerable adults at the facility.

A review has also been commissioned by the Belfast Trust into ‘safeguarding’ at Muckamore Abbey, the findings of which are due to be outlined in the very near future.

In July, the existence of CCTV images showing staff abusing patients at the facility was revealed. The footage is said to show “horrendous” treatment, including violence.

The PSNI is being assisted in their investigation by the National Crime Agency.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Jill Duffie confirmed to the News Letter last week that 132 incidents had been reported to police by the start of December, but declined to comment further since the probe into Muckamore Abbey is a “live investigation”.

To date, no charges have been brought forward.

There have been 13 suspensions of staff members at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, some of which happened directly following the emergence of the CCTV images.

The Belfast Trust apologised to families again today. A spokesperson said: “We wish to apologise sincerely to those patients and their families affected by staff behaviours which fell significantly below professional standards and were unacceptable at Muckamore Abbey hospital.”

The trust spokesperson also confirmed the use of ‘seclusion’ is under review.

Speaking to the BBC, the mother of a patient at Muckamore described the seclusion room in Muckamore Abbey as “a dark dungeon”.

She continued: “Padded walls, padded floor, one chair in it and blacked-out windows. That horrified me – poor wee boy in there without even a book, a drink, or able to go to the toilet.”

The trust spokesperson said: “Seclusion may be used as an emergency management procedure to contain severely disturbed behaviour which is likely to cause harm to others; its appropriate use is sometimes practised in certain contexts of Learning Disability Inpatient Services.

“The trust’s seclusion policy in relation to Muckamore Abbey Hospital is currently under review by a multi-disciplinary team.”