Police investigating alleged poisoning of patients on stroke ward widen probe to eight more deaths 

A police investigation into the alleged poisoning of patients on a stroke unit has been dramatically widened to examine eight more deaths.

A healthcare professional at Blackpool Victoria Hospital is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerie Kneale, 75.

He was held in March after the arrest of seven members of staff – three of them nurses – during a two-and-a-half-year probe that followed claims by a whistleblower that medicines had been tampered with. 

A police investigation into the alleged poisoning of patients on a stroke unit has been dramatically widened to examine eight more deaths. Picture: File image

A police investigation into the alleged poisoning of patients on a stroke unit has been dramatically widened to examine eight more deaths. Picture: File image

A police investigation into the alleged poisoning of patients on a stroke unit has been dramatically widened to examine eight more deaths. Picture: File image

Lancashire Police revealed yesterday that the deaths of eight other patients were now being linked to allegations of neglect and mistreatment on the stroke ward. They will be reviewed by the local coroner.

Police were initially contacted by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, shortly before Mrs Kneale’s death in November 2018.

Their inquiries are understood to have focused on the use of drips and cannulas on the ward, as well as the administering of sleeping tablets. Detectives are believed to have looked into the suggestion that patients on the stroke unit were given the drug Zopiclone to keep them sedated.

Seven healthcare professionals were arrested on suspicion of administering a ‘poison or noxious thing’ with the intent to injure, and ill-treatment or wilful neglect, before being bailed.

Detectives later revealed an ‘unexplained injury’ had been found during a post-mortem examination on Mrs Kneale and it was ‘believed to be suspicious in nature’.

They added that while this information had come as a result of the investigation into mistreatment and neglect, it was being treated separately as a murder inquiry.

A healthcare professional at Blackpool Victoria Hospital is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerie Kneale, 75 (pictured)

A healthcare professional at Blackpool Victoria Hospital is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerie Kneale, 75 (pictured)

A healthcare professional at Blackpool Victoria Hospital is currently on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of the murder of Valerie Kneale, 75 (pictured) 

A Lancashire Police spokesman said yesterday: ‘We can confirm inquests are due to take place for a number of people who sadly died following treatment as inpatients on the stroke unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

‘Eight inquests are scheduled linked to our inquiry into allegations of mistreatment and neglect. A further inquest is planned for Valerie Kneale, whose murder remains under investigation.’

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has said it is ‘co-operating fully’ with the investigation.

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