Patient numbers at a mental health hospital in Northern Ireland have “significantly reduced” following allegations of abuse, the Health Department said.
Muckamore Abbey Hospital just outside Antrim town provides inpatient facilities for those with learning difficulties and cognitive issues.
An expert report was commissioned in September 2017, following reports of inappropriate behaviour and alleged physical abuse of patients by staff in two wards.
A Department of Health statement said: “The priority for Muckamore remains the safety and stability of care provided there.
“Suspensions clearly contribute to the challenge of maintaining required staffing levels.
“However, it should also be emphasised that the patient population at Muckamore has been significantly reduced over the past year.
“This has helped mitigate staffing pressures to a degree.”
The department admitted it was a difficult and challenging time for everyone involved with Muckamore.
It said it was “firmly committed” to reducing lengthy hospital admissions by providing additional support for people to live sustainably in local communities.
“The reshaping of services will cover different aspects of care, including: in-patient assessment and treatment of patients with learning disabilities; respite care; outreach work to support community placements; and provision in circumstances where placements might break down.
“Identifying the best long-term location or locations for inpatient and respite care will form part of this work.
“The best interest of patients and their families will be the paramount consideration at all times.”
CCTV footage has revealed 1,500 crimes on one ward, police said.
Detectives are investigating allegations about the physical and mental abuse of patients.
A previous independent review concluded that improvements are needed in leadership at the hospital.
Reviewers raised concerns about the safeguarding of adults, provision of meaningful activities for patients and physical health care.