The Northern Ireland secretary has said she will “consider” ordering a full public inquiry into “truly shocking” allegations that some of Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable patients were abused at a Co Antrim hospital.
Muckamore Abbey Hospital, where patients with severe learning and mental disabilities are cared for, is at the centre of a major, ongoing police investigation into the alleged abuse of patients.
Families’ calls for a full public inquiry have been backed by the DUP, the SDLP and Sinn Fein but with no power-sharing Executive in place, there is no health minister to order such an inquiry.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson, speaking in the House of Commons, addressed the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley: “One of the consequences of not having a functioning Executive is that there has been no political oversight of the scandal of Muckamore Abbey.
“I have raised it personally with the secretary of state. I have written to the secretary of state.
“She knows that we had a sanctuary for adults with learning difficulties and they were physically abused and assaulted by nursing staff.
“On Friday, nurses had their suspensions overturned. Why? Because appallingly, the Belfast Trust had not provided the evidence and the CCTV to the nursing and midwifery council.”
He continued: “This is a scandal. And it hasn’t had full consideration here and it certainly isn’t going to get it without Stormont at home.
“The secretary of state knows that through the Inquiries Act she is the only person capable of calling a public inquiry.”
Mrs Bradley replied: “It is truly shocking. The reports that we are all seeing coming from victims are ones that nobody should have to read and see.”
She added: “I will continue to consider the points that he has made and review the position.”
Meanwhile, the Belfast Trust has said it will publish the executive summary of a ‘Serious Adverse Incident’ report into the alleged abuse this week following an all-party meeting with politicians.
SDLP MLA Pat Catney, speaking after the meeting, said: “I would prefer that we take this decision ourselves, but in the absence of that I would urge the secretary of state to order a public inquiry.”
Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew said: “We are still awaiting the long overdue and promised publication of the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) report. This is not acceptable and must be published as a matter of urgency.
“It is clear that while the SAI establishes some of what happened in Muckamore it does not address issues of governance and accountability.
“The recent developments have reinforced the need for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of serious care failings at Muckamore Abbey Hospital.”
A Belfast trust spokesperson said: “Today the Belfast Trust met with a cross party delegation of MLAs in keeping with our commitment to update public representatives regularly on Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
“During the meeting we made it clear the Executive Summary of the SAI Report would be published on our website this week.
“We also provided an update on staffing matters, reiterating that, whilst challenges remain, Muckamore Abbey Hospital is operating safely.
“It was also confirmed that all CCTV footage is now under the care of the PSNI, as has always been our intention. The independent panel will continue to view CCTV footage in liaison with the PSNI.”