By David Young
February 15 2019
The Department of Health must launch a full independent inquiry into allegations of abusive treatment of vulnerable patients at Muckamore Abbey as the Secretary of State is unlikely to take action, the Ulster Unionists have said.
It comes after the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, told the House of Commons she would “review the position” on a full public inquiry.
It was also reported that the Belfast Trust is to review the governance, leadership and management at Muckamore in relation to the allegations of abuse. An oversight committee is to be established and will include the trust’s three directors and deputy directors, the BBC reported.
However, UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs MLA said the probe should follow the model of the investigation into the work of suspended consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt.
That inquiry is investigating the circumstances leading to the patient recall for the period between November 2016 and May 2018, and to evaluate corporate governance procedures within the Belfast Trust. The probe will also review the trust’s handling of relevant complaints or concerns identified or received prior to November 2016, and participation in processes to maintain standards of professional practice, including appraisals.
Mr Beggs said: “In any ordinary circumstances my party would now be supportive of a public inquiry into the deeply disturbing allegations surrounding Muckamore Abbey.
“Of course these are not ordinary times and without a Minister or Executive in place to take such a decision, once again patients and their families are being badly let down in Northern Ireland.
“While I would like to see the Secretary of State for once stepping up to the mark and making such a ruling, everything we have seen to date shows that the she is wholly unwilling and unprepared to take these difficult decisions.
“If she continues to ignore the deepening scandal surrounding Muckamore Abbey, then I believe the Department of Health has no choice but to announce the establishment of an independent inquiry panel into the matter.”
Mr Beggs said the Department of Health should order an independent inquiry into the catalogue of serious allegations of patient abuse at the Muckamore Abbey facility which have resulted in staff suspensions and a police probe. “Such a precedent was already set when, in May 2018, one was established to review the major recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust,” he said.
“That panel comprises Brett Lockhart QC and Dr Hugo Mascie-Taylor, an internationally recognised expert, and it is generally considered to be conducting a thorough and independent inquiry into the matter.”
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