TWO County Durham MPs have called for an inquiry amid reports of a high number of coronavairus-related deaths in a Bishop Auckland care home.

Sandringham Care Home, which can accommodate up to 92 residents, has been in the spotlight following a BBC report which claimed 27 had died with coronavirus.

Dehenna Davison has since alleged she was "turned away" from the care home after learning of the reported deaths and has called on Durham County Council to launch an investigation.

However, the care home have since disputed the number of coronavirus-related deaths reported and has told The Northern Echo that 21 residents have died with the virus.

Ms Davison said: “I became aware of rumours of a number of deaths at Sandringham care home. My office immediately tried to contact the care home to see how they were coping, and to ask if there was anything I as the MP could do to support them. However, we were turned away.

'Serious issues'

“Clearly, there have been serious issues with local care home management here in County Durham. We urgently need Durham County Council to launch an investigation to find out why this happened and prevent it from ever happening again."

Ms Davison added: “Every death from Coronavirus is a tragedy, and my thoughts are with the loved ones of all those who lost their lives at Sandringham.”

Her calls have been echoed by fellow Conservative MP for North West Durham Richard Holden, who said it was clear "something had gone badly wrong" in the county. 

Durham County Council have said it has followed national policy and guidance since the beginning of the pandemic.

The council has also said it will continue to 'ensure the ongoing' safeguarding and well-being of care home residents. 

'We have no new cases'

But the care home provider, Crown Care disputed the number of coronavirus-related deaths.


A spokesperson for the care home told The Echo: "We can confirm that very sadly there were deaths that were related to the coronavirus.

"We have been keen not to make public comment as we prefer to respect the dignity and memory of those sadly passed and their relatives. 

"However, for the record I can confirm that the number of covid related deaths was 21 during this period, not 27 as reported by the BBC.

"All staff and residents are undergoing regular testing. And we currently have no new cases."

'So this never happens again'

Durham County Councillor for Bishop Auckland Sam Zair said there needed to be a full independent enquiry into the deaths.

He said: "First of all I would like to send my condolence to all the families who have lost their loved ones in Sandringham. 

"There needs to be a full independent enquiry at DCC NHS and at Every level possible to establish what has been going on. Once this is established there needs to be measures put in place so this never happens again."

Mr Zair added that he knew of families who could not praise the staff at the care home enough even after losing family members to the virus. 

Joy Allen, Bishop Auckland Town Councillor, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 crisis it has been heart-breaking to hear the experiences of families who have had loved ones in care homes, particularly those who have lost family members to the coronavirus.

“Locally I know how hard care workers have worked throughout the pandemic and the efforts they have made to keep family members updated on their relatives health and care arrangements.

“As a local councillor I have valued the regular Sandringham Care Homes Facebook updates on residents care provision and activities taking place inside the home.

“Therefore I was very surprised to see this leaked report about this particular care home featuring in the local press.

“It appears that claims have been made that have been disputed by the care home in question, but as we have seen nationally there have been calls to investigate the high number of deaths in care homes."

Cllr Allen added that she would welcome a full national enquiry to establish why so many care home residents lost their lives to coronavirus.

'We have followed national policy and guidance'

Jane Robinson, Durham County Council’s corporate director for adult and health services, said: “Any untimely death in a family is tragic and we would like to pass on our sincere condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.

"We are aware of the number of care homes deaths although we do have a large number of care homes and one of the largest care home bed numbers in the country.

“As an authority we reiterate we have followed national policy and guidance since the pandemic.

“We are also looking at our response to learn from our experiences and will continue to work with our partners to protect and support care homes in County Durham to ensure the ongoing safeguarding and well-being of care home residents whilst this pandemic is still ongoing.

"The Government has committed to carrying out an inquiry although emphasised at this time all our efforts must focus on keeping people safe.”

“Reckless” and “appalling” policy error

Earlier this week, a report from the House of Commons cross-party Public Accounts Committee described advising hospitals to discharge thousands of patients into care homes without knowing if they had coronavirus as a “reckless” and “appalling” policy error.

Discharging about 25,000 patients to free up beds was an example of the Government’s “slow, inconsistent and at times negligent” approach to social care, the committee said.

It added that it was “concerned” that the Department of Health and Social Care had continued with the policy “even once it was clear there was an emerging problem”.

Hospitals in England were asked on March 17 to discharge patients, but patients did not require a coronavirus test prior to discharge until April 15.

Committee chairwoman, MP Meg Hillier, said: “Our care homes were effectively thrown to the wolves.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “Alongside an extra £1.3bn to support the hospital discharge process, we have provided 172 million items of PPE to the social care sector since the start of the pandemic and are testing all residents and staff.”