Essex Council has stopped placing people at a care home at the centre of a police investigation after the unexplained deaths of two elderly women this month.
The pair, aged 89 and 80, who had been living at the Partridge Care Centre in Harlow, were taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital on August 3, where the 89-year-old died three days later. The second died last week.
An elderly man who was taken to hospital on the same day has since been discharged from hospital.
Press reports have speculated that all three may have been victims of an insulin overdose, though police have not confirmed this and emphasised further tests were being carried out. A 36-year-old woman from Enfield, north London, has been arrested and has been bailed.
Alongside this, Essex Council confirmed it was investigating safeguarding issues and had provided intensive support for the home to raise standards. These were found to be deficient in six essential quality and safety areas by the Care Quality Commission during an inspection in March.
These included the failure of management to demonstrate a sound understanding of adult safeguarding procedures, and a need to improve medication practices.
The council said it would continue to monitor progress on an action plan of improvement at the home, run by Rushcliffe, and has also provided advocacy support for relatives, while the NHS has assigned a team of clinicians to work on the site.
“The Care Quality Commission will consider enforcement action if necessary,” said Ann Naylor, cabinet member for adults, health and community well-being. “Essex Council has a suspension on places and this will be in place until we are happy that improvements to the level of care have been made.
“Conversations have been held with all residents and their families to review individual needs and all care plans have been checked.
“While the majority of residents and their relatives have expressed a wish to stay at Partridge Care Centre, those residents who have requested to move are being supported and further discussions will be held with their families to find suitable, alternative accommodation.”
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