Police probe Stafford unit deaths
Hundreds of deaths at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital are being examined by police, officials said.
A review of deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust by police and other officials has identified 200 to 300 cases where neglect might have contributed to the death.
Following the publication of the Francis report into serious care failings at Stafford Hospital, police, medical regulators and prosecutors launched a multi-agency review to establish whether any criminal offences were committed.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Baker, who is chairing the review, said: "Between 2005 and 2009, there were 4,253 deaths at Stafford Hospital. However, we've identified between 200 and 300 cases where alleged neglect may have contributed to a patient's death and they are being thoroughly reviewed."
The multi-agency review includes representatives from Staffordshire Police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the coroner's office, the Health and Safety Executive, the Care Quality Commission, the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Officials are aiming to identify the most serious cases at the hospital from 2005 to 2009, the period examined by the public inquiry led by Robert Francis.
The public inquiry report highlighted the ''appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people'' at the trust. Inquiries into the scandal revealed that many patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.
Officials from the multi-agency review are looking at reams of data including reports into care by the hospital, coroner reports, inquest records, complaints and civil claims.
Mr Baker said: "As I'm sure you'll appreciate, this is a complex, large-scale review which needs to be detailed, thorough and sensitive. This work is being carried out by a team of Staffordshire Major Investigation Department detectives, led by a senior investigating officer, and supported by investigators from the Health and Safety Executive.
"They are examining whether or not there's any new information which has come to light which could lead to a previous criminal investigation being reopened or to an entirely new investigation. If we get to this stage, our next step will be to establish if there's any realistic potential for criminal charges and prosecution.
"Due to the complex nature of our case-by-case review, at this stage we cannot be clear about timescales but we do anticipate that this will take many months."