Published: 12/12/2001, Volume II2, No. 5835 Page 7

The Commission for Health Improvement is investigating allegations of mental and physical abuse of mentally ill elderly patients at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care trust.

The trust said the allegations relate to four nursing auxiliaries who remain suspended after allegations of abuse on Rowan ward, Healey House at Withington Hospital, Manchester. A police inquiry is also running alongside the CHI investigation.

Trust director of service development Kathy Armstrong said: 'We had six staff suspended and one bank nurse was referred to the agency. Four staff are still suspended and they are nursing auxiliaries.'

CHI was called in by Greater Manchester strategic health authority after preliminary inquiries dating from August showed the situation was serious enough to go straight to an external inquiry.

CHI will also investigate claims of bullying and intimidation of staff and whether the trust's whistleblowing policy is working effectively. Ms Armstrong said CHI had been asked in because 'a number of the issues we have identified are governance issues'.

Rowan ward itself is due to be closed next week when patients are relocated to Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.