A police investigation into deaths of patients at a psychiatric hospital in Derbyshire is examining the case notes of 26 people who were cared for on a single ward.

Southern Derbyshire Mental Health trust called in police last November because of concerns about the care of terminally ill patients on one of the wards at Kingsway Hospital, Derby.

Trust chief executive Richard Seed said: 'The police are examining case notes relating to patients who died over a three-year period. The investigation could take a long time - as much as 18 months.'

Detective Inspector Kevin Buttery, who is leading the investigation, confirmed that 26 cases are being looked at, but said some might be eliminated from the inquiry.

Neither the trust nor the police are willing to discuss the details of the inquiry, which newspaper reports say is concerned with allegations that patients were allowed to die.