Northern Ireland

Muckamore Abbey: Mother 'devastated' by son's letter

Anne Blake and her son Jonathon Image copyright Blake Family
Image caption Anne Blake and her son, Jonathon, who was a resident of Muckamore Abbey

The mother of a former Muckamore Abbey Hospital patient has said she was devastated to see a letter saying he was subjected to "horrific behaviour".

Nineteen health professionals have been suspended since allegations emerged about ill-treatment of patients.

Anne Blake recently received her son Jonathon's medical notes despite requesting them 18 months ago.

The family said the letter, seen by the BBC, was never shown to them.

They said they do not think it was investigated by the Belfast Health Trust, and the matter has now been referred to the police.

A spokesman for the trust told the BBC: "We are aware of this issue and take it extremely seriously. We have initiated an investigation."

In September, Mrs Blake told BBC News NI that Muckamore did not deserve the title of hospital.

Campaign

Mrs Blake and a group of parents calling themselves Action for Muckamore are stepping up their fight for justice for patients by taking their campaign to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council .

On Tuesday, the council passed a motion calling on Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to trigger a public inquiry following allegations of physical and mental abuse.

Image caption The Muckamore parents' group believes only a public inquiry can discover the truth about what happened at the hospital

The motion was passed unanimously and campaigners hope other councils will follow suit.

Mrs Blake, whose son is now living in alternative accommodation, said the more the families uncover the more they believe there must be a public inquiry.

She said: "I know there are always some good staff and this is not a witch hunt, but we must find out what happened to our children.

"These are severe allegations and they are vulnerable adults.

"It only came to light as it was caught on camera. It was a fluke.

"The only way we are going to get to the bottom of all this is a public inquiry, not a cosmetic exercise but a root and branch investigation. "

'Serious'

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is backing the group's call for a public inquiry.

He said Muckamore was one of the most serious cases he had ever had to deal with.

Sir Jeffrey said: "The level of mistreatment and the evidence that this is about more than one or two individuals, that there were systemic problems with the way Muckamore was managed, that there was a failure to act when concerns were raised.

"These were vulnerable adults in the hands of people who should have been caring for them."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Karen Bradley's spokesperson said a decision on a public inquiry would have to be taken by a Stormont executive

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland secretary said: "The findings of the report into Muckamore Abbey Hospital are truly shocking and deeply concerning.

Given the extremely serious nature of this issue, the secretary of state has asked officials to engage closely with the NI Department of Health."

The spokesperson said health was a devolved matter and any decision on establishing a public inquiry should be taken by the Northern Ireland Executive.

There has been no devolved government in Northern Ireland since the collapse of the executive two years ago.

Jonathon Blake's medical records revealed he had been in a seclusion room for 75 minutes one one occasion, where he spend the time crying.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The hospital cares for adults with intellectual disabilities, behavioural or mental health problems

Mrs Blake says discovering the handwritten letter from her son has been harrowing.

She said: "Jonathon has written some quite shocking things that he alleges happened to him.

"I never knew anything about it. No-one warned me about the letter in the file. I don't know if it was ever followed up."

Mrs Blake said she cannot reveal full details as they are personal to her son.

Despite being an adult, Mr Blake's writing is childlike and innocent. Some of the content is disturbing and he appears to have been extremely frightened.

Detained

Jonathon Blake was detained at Muckamore Abbey in 2015 under the Mental Health Order because of his worsening epilepsy and challenging behaviour.

His mother said she soon became alarmed at the deterioration in his health including dramatic weight loss.

While numerous complaints were made, the family maintain Jonathon's health was neglected and that the culture in the hospital was not suitable for ill people.

A confidential review commissioned by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust found there had been a series of catastrophic failings at the hospital in the years 2014-17.

Mrs Blake said the group was disappointed that the Northern Ireland secretary has not contacted any of the parents involved in the ongoing Muckamore scandal.

She said: "Considering all the publicity around the allegations so far you'd think the secretary of state would have been interested in Muckamore yet we haven't heard one word from her.

"I know Brexit is important but Muckamore is important too. She just can't be the secretary of state for Brexit,"

She said that in that all the parents could do while there was no devolved government was raise awareness of their call for an inquiry.

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