Police have arrested six care workers as part of an investigation into the abuse and neglect of elderly residents at a private care home.
The allegations follow a five-month police inquiry into the level of care at Hillcroft Nursing Home in Slyne, near Lancaster.
Police were called to the home in Throstle Grove in May after a complaint from another member of staff.
A matron and five members of nursing staff, who no longer work at the home, have been arrested.
Police said the investigation involves “a significant number” of cases ranging from physical abuse to ill treatment and neglect.
The mistreatment has allegedly taken place within the Challenging Behaviour Unit, which cares for vulnerable adults with advanced Alzheimer’s.
The allegations date back to December 2010, with the most recent incident being reported in February of this year.
The offences under investigation are within the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (neglect and ill treatment) and due to the complexity of the case the investigation team has been working with the Crown Prosecution Service’s Complex Case Unit.
Lancashire Police’s divisional commander for Northern Division, Chief Supt Richard Bayly, said: “These arrests are a culmination of a thorough investigation into serious allegations of mistreatment of residents at Hillcroft Slyne nursing home.
“The enquiry is complicated and we have a team of specialist detectives working on this case who are also offering support to those families who may have had loved ones identified as being allegedly mistreated.
“Our priority from the outset has been to ensure the safety of patients within the Slyne home and the Constabulary has been working closely with Lancashire County Council’s Adult Services Department and NHS North Lancashire to ensure that any safeguarding issues were addressed immediately.
“Our number one priority was the safeguarding and well-being of the residents.”
The 36-bedroom home is one of six Hillcroft homes owned by local businessmen John Ayrton, David Pinington and Brian Pinington.
They bought the ex-social services home in Slyne in 2007, which they refurbished and extended to comprise three separate units offering nursing care for frail elderly, elderly mentally infirm and challenging behaviour.
Homes are overseen and inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which last carried out a routine review of compliance in August 2011.
Lancashire County Council operates as a safeguarding authority over people in care homes in the county.
A review has now been set up to look at all aspects of the inquiry.
The review, which runs alongside the investigation and any subsequent judicial proceedings, aims to ensure better protection for vulnerable adults in residential care.
The six people arrested – two men aged 26 and 34, and four women aged 26, 27, 53 and 59 – had not been charged with any offences as the Guardian went to press.