Published Wednesday, 28 August 2013
The report was carried out by the Patient Client Council (© Getty)
An investigation by the Patient Client Council revealed the details of the allegation.
Fifteen people with a learning disability were interviewed about their experiences at Muckamore Abbey Hospital, Antrim and Longstone Hospital, Armagh.
Two family members were also contacted.
The ward regime was described as 'hell' and relatives who visited said it was as if somebody had 'thrown away the key.'
One patient told researchers: "There were no birthdays in lock-up. You had to get up at 6am for physical training outside, no matter what the weather was like. You had to clean floors with a toothbrush."
The complaint was made when the patient was first admitted, they were then moved to another part of the hospital.
One testimony claimed: "Staff weren't nice to you there. You had to do exactly what you were told. There was no chance of getting out."
Another patient interviewed said: "I worked in the gardens. I like working in the gardens but you were escorted. You had no freedom at all. Like a prisoner."
The report is going to be sent to the health minister, Edwin Poots, Stormont's health committee and various trusts which run services.
In 1995, the Department of Health said all long-stay patients should be moved into the community, but targets have been missed and some remain in hospital, according to the report.
Nearly 1% of the population in Northern Ireland have a learning disability with more than a quarter of them, severe or profound.
Health inspectors the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) were positive about the support, care and protection provided on the ward at Muckamore last year, but said staffing levels were stretched, affecting the provision of activities.
A spokeswoman for the Southern Health Trust which runs Longstone said the organisation had fully embraced the shift from hospital to community care: "The change from hospital to community-based care offers independent living in a safe and secure environment with each placement appropriate to meet the individual needs of the patients."
A spokeswoman for Belfast Health Trust, which runs Muckamore, said the organisation fully agreed that people with a learning disability should not have a hospital as their home: "Within the hospital each patient has a person-centred care plan and arrangements are in place to take account of the views of patients on how the service is planned and delivered."
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