Surrey woman left without care dies in hospital

Carefirst24 offices The Carefirst24 offices were raided on 15 January as part of a border agency investigation

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A woman in her 80s left at home in Surrey without medication, food, or water for nine days after a care agency shut down has died in hospital.

Gloria Foster was admitted to Epsom Hospital nearly two weeks ago after being found at her home in Banstead.

Her home care provider, Carefirst24 in Sutton, south London, closed after a raid by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Surrey County Council said Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board was investigating "this tragic event".

'Questions to answer'

Mrs Foster died on Monday. Her MP, Conservative Crispin Blunt, has described her ordeal as "horrific".

"I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Foster has now, sadly, passed away," he said.

"Clearly there are questions to answer and I would expect a comprehensive investigation between all of the agencies involved.

"I said last week that I would certainly not like to pre-judge any more of the narrative before it is formally established.

"Yesterday's desperately sad developments can only increase the salience of that need."

Surrey Police said it investigated the case after hospital staff caring for Mrs Foster raised concerns.

Carefirst24 provided care to elderly people across Surrey and the London Borough of Sutton on behalf of the two local authorities.

UKBA raided its headquarters in Upper Mulgrave Road, Sutton, on 15 January as part of an investigation into suspected illegal workers and fraud.

'Top priority'

Six people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into the UK, the UKBA said.

A spokeswoman for the county council said on Tuesday: "We are very sad to hear about Mrs Foster's death and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.

"The safety of vulnerable adults is our top priority, which is why this tragic event is already being urgently looked at by the Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board."

The spokeswoman said she did not know how long the investigation by the safeguarding board, set up to protect vulnerable adults, would take.

As well as the county council, its members include Surrey Police, NHS Surrey, the 11 district and borough councils in Surrey and voluntary sector organisations such as Mencap, the Surrey Coalition of Service Users and Action for Carers.

'Appropriate agency'

A spokeswoman for AGE UK Surrey said lessons must be learnt from Mrs Foster's case.

Paul Burstow, Lib Dem MP for Sutton and Cheam, said Surrey County Council needed to get to the bottom of why its procedures did not work properly.

Surrey Police said in a statement: "Officers from the Public Protection Investigation Unit carried out enquiries and it was deemed that the Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board would be the appropriate agency to investigate further."

Telephones at Carefirst24's offices are not being answered and no reply has been received to inquiries by email.

All those arrested have been bailed until dates in April.

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