The mother of a man with learning disabilities has said Muckamore Abbey “doesn’t deserve to be called a hospital”.
Anne Blake made her comments after her son Jonathan became seriously ill while living in Muckamore in County Antrim.
Mrs Blake said Jonathan’s medical health was not taken seriously because of his learning disability.
The Belfast Trust said it takes the issues raised by Jonathan’s family very seriously.
The trust also said that following an investigation a report has been sent to the Blake family. The report into the investigation has been seen by the BBC.
Muckamore Abbey provides care to about 80 patients with learning disabilities or behavioural problems.
Jonathan, 36, was detained there under the Mental Health Order in December 2015 because of his worsening epilepsy and challenging behaviour.
Before then he had lived at home with his parents where, his mother said, he had enjoyed a good standard of life.
While an inpatient his mother became alarmed by his weight loss.
Jonathan also developed a problem with one of his eyes – Mrs Blake said neither condition was dealt with properly.
“He went into Muckamore and weighed 22 stone. He lost six stone and was getting weaker and weaker,” she said.
‘No one listening’
“I continually complained about him losing weight. It was obvious he was a very ill person and he wasn’t being treated as an ill person.
“The care just doesn’t exist – it’s basic and if you don’t complain or have nobody to complain for you – no one will listen.”
“He took a really sore eye and I had to actually insist that he was seen.
“He ended up going to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment for six weeks and this was all connected to him being ill.”
His mother said that Jonathan was eventually treated for lymphoma by the haematology team in Antrim Area Hospital.
During a visit to his family home in August 2017 he became acutely ill and was taken to the stroke unit in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was to remain for nearly a year.
Mrs Blake also complained the hospital failed to treat her son with “dignity or respect”.
“It’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. When Jonathan left Muckamore and was in the RVH my husband found a black rubbish bag sitting outside his room and when we looked into it it was Jonathan’s bits and pieces of clothes.
“They just left them and didn’t even tell us.”
Jonathan is now living in supported accommodation but is in a wheelchair, is incontinent and requires personal care.
His family maintain that while he was in Muckamore his health was neglected and say that the culture in the hospital is not suitable for ill people.
“I think if they are compliant, are easy to manage and they maybe have been there for years and years – there’s a routine.
“But if somebody comes in new, or somebody comes in who actually has challenging stuff going on or really ill like my son was, there is no care.
“I’m calling for that hospital title to be taken away.”
“The reason it is allowed to exist is because they are out of the way, people don’t have to look at them and unless it comes to your door and you are a parent of someone with a learning disability, it doesn’t impact upon you.”
Mrs Blake complained to the Belfast Trust about her son’s care in Muckamore and after an investigation the trust drew up a report.
It notes five “learning outcomes” which include:
- Ensuring staff are aware of the need to clearly document all aspects of care
- Ensuring patients and relatives are clear regarding who has overall responsibility for care delivery
- Ensuring patients and relatives are referred to appropriate professionals when necessary.
Among the 10 recommendations included in the report are:
- Senior clinical staff need to ensure patients and their families are clear as to who is responsible for overall care
- Consideration should be given to having availability of substantive medical staff to support with the physical health needs of patients
In a statement to BBC NI, a spokesperson for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said a complaint had been made regarding Mr Blake’s care while he was an in-patient in Muckamore Abbey Hospital.
“Following an investigation, a report was sent to Mr Blake’s family. They have now been offered the opportunity to meet the investigation team and senior clinical staff to discuss the outcomes of the investigation.’