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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Department of Health sets closure timetable for Muckamore

Entrance to Muckamore Hospital

The Department of Health has set June 2024 as the planned closure date for Muckamore Abbey Hospital.

This date will be dependent on all remaining Muckamore patients having been appropriately resettled in community settings.

Today’s announcement follows a public consultation on the hospital’s future and is in line with the direction set out by previous Health Minister Robin Swann.

Department of Health 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.”

The Permanent Secretary continued:

“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“The model of care represented by Muckamore Abbey Hospital is outdated and not fit for purpose.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.”

Mr May added:

“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.”

The public consultation on the hospital’s future was announced by Minister Swann on 24 October 2022 in a written Assembly statement. The statement emphasised the benefits of “signalling a clear intention to close the hospital”.

Of those who responded to the consultation, 56 (48%) agreed with the proposal to close, while 43 (37%) did not agree, and 18 (15%) did not provide a clear yes or no, or did not answer.

In addition, 51 (44%) of respondents agreed that the proposed closure of MAH is consistent with the overall policy aim of improving services for people with a Learning Disability in Northern Ireland, while 41 (35%) disagreed, and 25 (21%) did not provide a clear yes or no, or did not answer.

The setting of a date for closure will have no bearing on the criminal investigation in relation to the hospital or the work of the Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry. These will both continue according to their planned schedules.


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