Blackpool Victoria Hospital: Police investigate stroke patient deaths

By Gill Dummigan
Health Correspondent, BBC North West Tonight

Published
image copyrightBlackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
image captionThe investigation concerns events on Blackpool Victoria Hospital's stroke ward

A police investigation into the neglect of patients at a hospital is now examining eight deaths, the BBC has discovered.

A coroner has been asked to review the deaths at Blackpool Victoria Infirmary, which all happened in late 2018.

A separate and unrelated murder investigation into the death of another patient is ongoing.

Lancashire Police officers are investigating events on the hospital's stroke ward in 2018.

Between November that year and April 2019 seven health care professionals were arrested on suspicion of neglect and mistreatment.

They were later released under investigation pending further inquiries.

BBC North West Tonight has now discovered that police have asked Blackpool Coroner's office to review the deaths of eight patients who had been on the ward.

The coroner will decide whether there is a need for inquests into how they died.

'Assault allegations'

This is one of two investigations into the stroke unit. In the course of the original investigation, known as Operation Bermuda, a number of post-mortem examinations were carried out.

One of those was on Valerie Kneale, from Blackpool, who died in November 2018. It was found she had died from a haemorrhage caused by a non-medical-related internal injury.

Police then began a second, separate murder investigation, known as Operation Jordan.

From that came further allegations of serious sexual assault against two patients and the sexual assault of a healthcare professional working on the stroke unit.

In March a man, also described as a healthcare professional, was arrested on suspicion of murder, two offences of rape and one of sexual assault. He was released on bail until 3 June.

Lancashire Police has stressed the eight deaths are not being examined by the team looking into Ms Kneale's alleged murder, but rather the operation investigating alleged mistreatment and neglect.

'Further support'

The NHS trust which runs the hospital says it continues to fully support the inquiries.

Pete Murphy, executive director of nursing and quality, said: "Our thoughts remain with the families affected by these investigations.

"When all proceedings have concluded, and it is appropriate, we would like to meet with them and offer as much further support as they might need.

"I want to reassure the families of any patients admitted to Blackpool Victoria and in particular the stroke unit that significant improvements have been made."

The inquest into the death of Ms Kneale, originally due to open last year, is now set to go ahead in May.

Police are continuing to appeal for information.

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