Police Probing Three Suspicious Deaths at UK Hospital

The staff at Stepping Hill Hospital notified authorities July 12 after the third patient died. Insulin was injected in saline solution bags, the police say.

Detectives from the Greater Manchester (UK) Police department's major incident team are interviewing staffers and patients at Stepping Hill Hospital, the major facility among four operated by the Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, as they try to find out who injected insulin into saline solution bags that were then administered to patients. Three people, a woman age 44 and men ages 71 and 84, died, and police say 11 additional patients are believed to have been affected but were not seriously harmed.

Staff at the hospital contacted police July 12 after saline bags were found to be contaminated, resulting in abnormally high numbers of patients with low blood sugar levels, the police reported.

Detectives are working with the coroner, the Strategic Health Authority, and the Health Protection Agency as part of the investigation. All deaths at the hospital that involved relevant symptoms will be referred to the coroner "for the foreseeable future," according to the department. "This investigation is at a very early stage," Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney said, "and we don't know what effect, if any, the solution has had to the well-being of any patients. It is an extremely fast-paced investigation, and we are working closely with the hospital and the coroner. Greater Manchester Police's priority is to prevent any further harm to patients. As part of that we are advising the hospital in terms of increased security measures. We have recovered a number of ampoules of solution and are working closely with the hospital to try and get to the bottom of what has happened."

He added that the "scope of this investigation is wide ranging, both in terms of the timescale of the contamination and the number of people we are speaking to. It is important that people are clear in their minds that, as things stand, we do not know for sure if the contaminated saline contributed to the deaths of these three people. It is a possibility we are looking at alongside the coroner, but we must stress that it will be extremely difficult to establish a link. That said, we have someone deliberately contaminating saline in the one place that people should feel they are being most cared for.

"I want to reassure everyone connected to the hospital -- staff, patients, visitors, and the wider community -- that we are determined to prevent further harm and to bring the offender to justice. There is no need for people in the community to be unduly alarmed, but I would ask anyone who might have information about what may have happened to get in touch. I also want to praise nursing staff for their professionalism and diligence in bringing this to our attention."

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