Northern Ireland

Muckamore Abbey Hospital: Seclusion room used 745 times in year

Muckamore
Image caption The report on Muckamore Hospital lists 'catastrophic failings'

A controversial seclusion room at a scandal-hit County Antrim hospital was used 745 times in 2015.

Figures revealed that, in that year, 21 patients were placed in the room at Muckamore Abbey Hospital at least once.

Last month, the hospital was the subject of a damning report that listed a series of catastrophic care failings that compromised many patients' lives.

The room was used to treat patients with aggressive behaviour, the Belfast Health Trust said.

Other reasons for the room being used included patients being angry, anxious, challenging, threatening or requesting time out.

The mother of one severely-disabled patient described the seclusion room as a "dark dungeon".

Image copyright Belfast HSCT
Image caption The seclusion room was refurbished last year

Figures obtained by BBC News NI through a freedom of information request showed that the scale of the room's use between 2014 and 2018 varied greatly.

In 2015 it was used 745 times, compared with 159 occasions in 2018.

  • 2014 - 384
  • 2015 - 745
  • 2016 - 368
  • 2017 - 141
  • 2018 - 159

In spite of 80 men and women being treated at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, it was, on average, the same 21 patients who were subjected to the room on one or more occasion in 2015.

The Belfast Health Trust's policy on seclusion is that it is an emergency procedure that should only be used as a last resort.

Image caption Anne Blake's son, Jonathon, "cried throughout" his time in the seclusion room

Since last year, the trust has stipulated that only a consultant can permit the use of the room.

Prior to that, a more junior medic - a medical officer - could have granted permission for the room to be used.

'Harrowing to discover'

A County Antrim mother whose son was a patient at the hospital recently discovered that he had been put in the seclusion room for 75 minutes.

The information was contained in his medical notes, which the family had requested.

The record notes that the man who has severe learning and physical disabilities had cried throughout.

Anne Blake said she was never told that her son had been in the room.

"It was quite harrowing to read he'd been in there for 75 minutes and he'd cried throughout," she said.

Image caption Source: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Each health trust's seclusion policy must adhere to the code of practice relevant to the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986.

It states that seclusion is an "emergency management procedure for the short-term control of patients whose behaviour is seriously disturbed".

It should only be used as a "late resort" after "all other reasonable steps to control the behaviour have been taken", the order states.

"The sole aim in using seclusion is to contain severely disturbed behaviour which is likely to cause harm to others.

"It should never be used where there is a risk that the patient may take their own life."

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