December 8, 2023

Closure of the Antrim health facility had been on the cards following a public consultation on the proposal last year.

The Department of Health confirmed the closure will be dependent on the remaining patients at the hospital having been “appropriately resettled in community settings”.

They also confirmed the date of closure will have “no bearing on the criminal investigation in relation to the hospital or the work of the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry” which will both continue according to their planned schedules.

The consultation on the closure in October 2022 saw 56 (48%) agree with the proposal to close Muckamore, while 43 (37%) did not agree, and 18 (15%) did not provide a clear yes or no, or did not answer.

The department’s Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “The June 2024 date should provide sufficient time for remaining patients to be discharged into the community. This is an overriding priority and the Department is working with all Trusts to develop safe discharge arrangements for all patients by this date.

“I can give a firm commitment that the closure will be a carefully managed and phased process. A detailed closure plan will be developed, co-produced by patients and families.

“It will clearly set out how the services currently provided on the Muckamore site will be delivered in agreed alternative settings.

“I believe closure is in the public interest and will help expedite resettlement, which has been a long-standing policy objective.

“The model of care represented by Muckamore Abbey Hospital is outdated and not fit for purpose. Living in the community, as part of that local community, is a much better alternative for people with learning disabilities.

“It is also the case that services at Muckamore remain very fragile. The proportion of agency nursing staff working on the site remains high, which continues to represent a vulnerability for both the safety and the sustainability of services.

“I am content that my decision is in accordance with Northern Ireland Executive Formation legislation and the associated Guidance published by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.”

Muckamore Abbey Hospital has regularly hit the headlines in recent years as a result of allegations of the ill-treatment of patients.

A public inquiry was opened in June 2022 to investigate the allegations of extensive and repeated abuse.

It became one of the largest health scandals in Northern Ireland and was subject to a police adult safeguarding investigation in the UK.

So far 83 workers at the hospital have been suspended, while seven have been sacked after CCTV footage of assaults against patients was emerged.

Several family members of patients who were treated in the hospital have since came forward with allegations of abuse and neglect.

Last month police made their 36th arrest in relation to the allegations.


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