COUNTY NEWS: ‘We still want answers’ say relatives of 12 people who died at eight Sussex care homes at centre of police probe

Sussex Health Care, the site of Orchard Lodge, Nr Warnham. Pic Steve Robards SR1713869 SUS-170613-154636001
Sussex Health Care, the site of Orchard Lodge, Nr Warnham. Pic Steve Robards SR1713869 SUS-170613-154636001

Relatives of 12 people who died at eight care homes run by the same company say they are still looking for answers over how they died.

Valerie Tilley, 79, was one of the 12 whose deaths at the eight homes run by Sussex Health Care are now being investigated by Sussex Police.

Her son Adrian said today: “I still want answers. They are not telling us what they are investigating.”

West Sussex County Council has stopped placing people at the eight homes because of ‘safeguaring concerns’ but refuses to name all the homes concerned. So far they have named only The Laurels in Broadbridge Heath and Orchard Lodge in Warnham.

A private meeting was held in Horsham on Friday between the relatives and representatives of Sussex Police, West Sussex County Council and the health watchdog group, the Care Quality Commission, and the West Sussex Coroner.

Adrian Tilley, who attended the meeting, said his mother Valerie, who had alzheimer’s, was resident at Longfield Manor care home in Billingshurst when she suffered two accidents within a week and died shortly afterwards at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

Adrian said staff at Longfield Manor refused to let him take some of his mother’s belongings to her while she was in hospital and is still angry at how he and his mother were treated.

Valerie’s sister Christine Harris was also among those at Friday’s meeting. She said the meeting heard that police began investigating after carrying out dawn visits and taking away paperwork from the eight care homes.

She described Friday’s meeting as ‘harrowing’ . “There were at least two families there who had lost young men in their 20s. One of them had three more members of their family in the same home.”

Police say that their investigations could go on until 2019. A spokesman said: “The police investigation still remains at an early stage and aims to identify whether any criminal offences have been committed or not.”

And in a statement today, Sussex Health Care said: “Sussex Health Care is working openly with the police and West Sussex County Council to support their current investigation. We are committed to assisting them in any way we can and positively await the conclusion and the outcome of the investigation.

“Our priority at all times is to provide a high standard of care to every person we support. As a responsible provider, we have always invested in our staff and services to make sure we have the right resources available to provide that care. This is reflected in our Investors in People accreditation, by the respected experts in their field that we are proud to have as members of our care teams, and by the awards we have received from professional healthcare bodies over many years.

“In the past month, we have invested further in our care team, bringing in an independent expert with decades of experience to provide direct support to the teams at our homes and services. We have written to residents and relatives and will continue to keep them up-to-date on progress.

“As a respected care provider with over 30 years of experience providing high quality care in Sussex, during which time we have supported over 30,000 people, we are immensely disappointed by the recent press coverage, which absolutely does not provide a fair reflection of the work that we are doing each and every day to support all the people we are privileged to care for.”