Sir, – The Irish Council of Professors, Deans, Heads of Nursing and Midwifery is a group which seeks to represent the perspectives of nurses and midwives in the third-level education sector. The council wishes to respond to the key points raised by the Prime Time documentary, which presented images of physical and emotional abuse and neglect of individuals with intellectual disabilities residing in Unit 3, Áras Attracta, Swinford, Co Mayo.
Members of the council are shocked and saddened by the contents of the documentary and are ashamed to contemplate that nurses were associated with the care provision in Unit 3 as outlined by the programme.
While it was acknowledged that there were examples of good practice in Áras Attracta, the most shocking aspect was the scale and nature of the abusive practices which were perpetrated and in which others were complicit by their refusal to intervene. The documentary portrayed scenes of vulnerable female residents being force-fed, roughly handled, and compelled to stay in chairs for extensive times. The casual and seemingly routine nature of the abusive care appeared to be an endemic part of the culture within Unit 3.
This documentary provides visual confirmation that the systems designed to protect vulnerable individuals have failed. The report challenges us to reflect on methods used to date in the education of healthcare professionals and in particular to focus on the caring, nurturing and safeguarding role of the nurse in the care of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Perhaps most importantly consideration needs to be given to the approaches used to support individuals to report or whistleblow on instances of poor care provision, misconduct and disrespect that they witness in clinical settings. In addition, within schools of nursing and midwifery we are committed to ensuring that nurses recognise that they are failing in their role if they do not report instances of poor care provision, misconduct or disrespect that they witness in clinical settings.
The council is willing to engage with any official inquiry to explore what can be improved in the education, training and continuous professional development of healthcare professionals and to assist in the process of informing how to move forward in terms of education, research and utilisation of future technologies. – Yours, etc,
Irish Council of Professors,
Deans and Heads of Nursing
University College Cork