A grieving daughter was told to cancel her dad’s funeral by police investigating the suspected poisoning of patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, said her father should have been laid to rest this week, but instead his body was taken away for a post-mortem examination.
Three nurses on the stroke unit were arrested, suspended, and bailed while a team of detectives continue what was described as a “complicated and sensitive” enquiry.
“I would not wish this on my worst enemy,” the woman said. “They rang me to say my dad was having a post-mortem and he would be taken away.
“We were told to cancel the funeral last week because it was all being investigated.”
The woman said she was visited on the stroke unit by Vic staff when the first nurse was arrested while her elderly dad was still alive, and given a letter that said he was not believed to have been involved.
But she said she was later visited by police who said he may have been – and said she has been left without answers or a funeral date since.
“They wanted to speak to me on the Monday. They said my father had been flagged up a couple of days prior to them coming out,” she said.
“They said, ‘It’s a big investigation and more and more cases are coming forward.’ All I was told was [the nurse was allegedly] administering poison and messing around with the medication, and that was it. I heard nothing more from police until Friday. That’s the only time they rang up and asked how I was doing.”
A “number” of post-mortem examinations have been done, police said, though the force declined to say how many.
Nor did it say how many families have been contacted and how many, if any, victims have been identified. It said the allegations “related to the alleged mistreatment and neglect of patients on the stroke unit in November”.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden tweeted: “This is a very serious allegation and, coming on top of other allegations, needs to be investigated with all speed within the [hospital] trust, and with the maximum transparency within the context of any legal process.”
No bodies have been exhumed, a police spokeswoman said, while Det Ch Insp Jill Johnston said: “I understand further arrests might be concerning but I would like to reassure people we have a dedicated team of detectives working on this investigation.
“We are offering support to those families who have had loved ones identified as potentially being involved. They are being kept fully updated and supported throughout the process by specially-trained officers.”
One woman said her mother died in 2014 after staying on the stroke unit, and said “it has come to my attention that one of the suspended healthcare workers was on that ward at the same time”.
Another man said his dad died last January after being moved to the stroke unit, and said: “We are in a position where we are thinking, ‘Does this involve us?’”
Hospital boss Wendy Swift (inset) said: “The hospital remains a safe and caring environment for patients, and the provision of services will continue as usual.”
A spokesman added: “We realise that this is a worrying time for people but we would like to reassure patients that all necessary actions are being taken to ensure the stroke unit is a safe environment.”
The first nurse was arrested on November 9, the day after the hospital called in police. She was bailed until February. The other two were bailed until January.
Estephanie Dunn, from the Royal College of Nursing, said: “When trusts are in the media spotlight, it can have an impact on the staff involved or within the workplace.”
Families can call the hospital on (01253) 952270.