Twelve members of staff at a Tyneside care home have been suspended as part of an ongoing probe into the deaths of 16 residents.
The move comes after detectives were called to St Michael’s View care home, in South Shields, South Tyneside, following the death of an 80-year-old woman from bronchial pneumonia in February.
The woman, named in various local papers as Joyce Wordingham, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and been in the home for about 18 months.
Police also confirmed they were reviewing the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 15 other residents dating back more than a year, though stressed these did not form part of a formal investigation.
A meeting took place last night between police, partners and family members of care home residents to provide an update on staffing and management arrangements.
A spokesperson for the care home’s owners, Southern Cross Healthcare Group, said: “Southern Cross can confirm that there is an ongoing police investigation regarding our St Michael’s View care home in South Shields.
“We have taken the decision to suspend 12 members of staff pending the result of this investigation.
“Extra nursing support has been brought in to ensure that care standards are maintained and our focus remains on looking after our residents.”
Detective chief inspector Ian Bentham said: “Care homes house some of our most vulnerable citizens, many of which are unable to make reasonable judgements themselves, therefore it is paramount we provide a level of service which ensures those persons are fully protected by criminal law to prevent their possible mistreatment.”
The news follows a Care Quality Commission inspection in March in which the home’s quality rating was downgraded from good to poor.
South Tyneside Council has introduced additional specialist social care and health support at the home as a result of the investigation and is monitoring the quality of care on a daily basis.