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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 21:28 GMT
Patients trapped by cash shortfall
Dot Kirby
BBC Northern Ireland health correspondent

The BBC has learned that well over 100 adults with learning disabilities have had their discharge from hospital delayed for an average of three and a half years.

corridor
Some people are worried about patients' human rights

The patients are all in Muckamore Abbey Hospital outside Antrim.

One man was ready to leave the hospital 10 years ago.

He is still there.

He is one of 118 people whose treatment is complete - but his discharge has been delayed because there's nowhere suitable for him to go.

For over 10 years, there has been a policy that no-one should live long term in hospital.

Hospitals like Muckamore should be used to assess and treat people prior to their discharge.

Supervision

So what would these 118 people need?

Perhaps to be housed in a small flats complex with three or four others - with supervision provided by appropriately trained staff, but such facilities aren't available.

It would be wrong to suggest that no progress has been made.

Over the years, the population of Muckamore has more than halved as people have been moved to more appropriate accommodation.

It is just that those changes have not come fast enough for all the people who need to be moved.

And there's another problem.

Some locked and unlocked wards were recently amalgamated at Muckamore and that has meant about 20 adults now find themselves locked up - even though they have never been assessed as needing secure accommodation.

Now some have expressed concern that these people's human rights are being abused.

In a statement, the Department of Health said their policy had already enabled a significant number of patients with learning disabilities to be resettled in the community from hospitals such as Muckamore Abbey.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Dot Kirby reports from Muckamore Abbey Hospital





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