Covid England: Police probe outbreak at care home where five died

Police investigate deadly coronavirus outbreak at Devon care home where five residents have died in nine days amid concerns over ‘Covid breaches’

  • Five elderly residents died at Holmesley Care Home following Covid outbreak
  • Devon and Cornwall Police have launched criminal investigation into deaths
  • Concerns were raised to police leading to probe in tandem with care watchdog

Police have launched a criminal investigation after five elderly residents died at a care home following an outbreak of coronavirus.  

Devon and Cornwall Police said the five deaths at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford, Devon, were all believed to be related to the outbreak.

The force said a ‘significant number’ of residents and staff had tested positive for Covid-19, with the five deaths having taken place since March 6. All of the deceased residents tested positive for Covid-19.

Ten other residents are being treated at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, while one member of staff is also in hospital with coronavirus.

Five elderly patients died at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford, Devon, prompting a police investigation

Police said it was not a random inquiry, but it is believed to be based on allegations which could lead to manslaughter or wilful neglect charges.

Chief Superintendent Dan Evans said concerns were raised to police which led to the police investigation in tandem with the Care Quality Commission. The home was inspected just two weeks before the flare-up was reported. 

An inspection was carried out at the home last month after concerns were raised with the care watchdog. There have been no arrests at this stage.

Chief Superintendent Evans said: ‘I’ve no doubt there will be concern in the community regarding this incident and we are doing everything possible to help those bereaved families, while also working with partners to communicate to those with relatives remaining within the home.

‘This is a complex investigation involving ourselves and multi-agency partners with safeguarding of residents at its core.

Police officers are speaking to staff at Holmesley Care Home in Sidford, Devon, following the five deaths of elderly residents 

‘There is significant work under way to understand the current situation and progress the investigation as quickly as possible, while maintaining the safety of care home residents, staff, police officers and partner agency staff.’

Police said agency staff had been brought in to care for residents who remain at the home while staff are self-isolating.

A force spokeswoman confirmed that an investigation was launched ‘following concerns about the outbreak’.

Officers are speaking to staff and have conducted a search of the home.

Post-mortem examinations have been carried out on three of the deceased residents. The investigation is being led by Devon and Cornwall Police in partnership with a multi-agency safeguarding response, the force added.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Holmesley Care Home said the firm is ‘working closely’ with the authorities to ‘halt the spread of infection’ and investigate how the virus entered the home.

The home, which has up to 55 residents, boasts ‘a ‘virus-proof’ visitor room in which relatives are welcome to visit their loved ones without fear of spreading infection’.

The company said the ‘vast majority’ of residents and staff had received the first dose of the Covid vaccine which ‘may have helped prevent an even worse situation’.

Care home director Will Neal said residents and staff were ‘about to have their second dose’ adding: ‘We cannot speculate how the virus might have entered our home but our clear priority right now is the care of our residents and staff and to do all we can to reduce the risk of further cases.’

The firm has not made a comment on the police-led investigation into the deaths. But officers will be interviewing the staff over the coming days as they investigate whether any criminality has been involved.

The care home remains open and agency staff have been brought in to help care for the residents.

A spokeswoman for Holmesley Care Home said: ‘I can confirm that we are currently dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus in the home and that sadly, five residents have passed away from the virus.

‘They will be deeply missed and our thoughts are with their loved ones at this challenging time.

Ten other residents and a member of staff are being treated at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

‘The vast majority of our residents and our staff team have received their first dose of the vaccine and we hope this may have helped prevent an even worse situation.

‘Of the residents and staff who tested positive, the majority have shown either no symptoms, or mild symptoms only.

‘We continue to monitor the situation closely, and are doing everything in our power to ensure residents receive the appropriate care.

‘For nearly 12 months our staff team has worked incredibly hard to keep the virus from entering our home.

‘We are therefore devastated by this outbreak and are committed to working closely with all the relevant authorities to halt the spread of infection and to investigate how the virus entered our home.

‘As an investigation is ongoing, we will not be commenting further.’  

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