ELDERLY residents are moving out of a private Southampton retirement home which is under investigation by police following the deaths of six patients.

Officers raided The Briars in Bitterne Park after a district nurse and other health care professionals raised concerns about its standards of care.

Managers and staff at the home were locked in crisis meetings yesterday after the Daily Echo revealed how police were probing allegations of ill treatment and neglect following the death of a resident named as Ronald Reed.

Mr Reed, 81, was transferred from the home to Southampton General Hospital. He died from natural causes on August 9 but other contributory factors led to suspicions over patient care at The Briars.

Police confirmed they were investigating a total of six deaths related to the home in Thorold Road, stretching back to January 2007.

The Briars owner Annette Hopkins, 63, said she had been shocked by the raid. She admitted she may have made mistakes but denied any allegations of neglect. Mrs Hopkins said a district nurse had assessed up to ten patients – almost half the residents – as needing specialist nursing care after finding they were suffering from bed and pressure sores.

A spokesman for the home later confirmed one of its residents moved out yesterday and another would follow them out the door shortly. She said that while hoists had been installed at the 34-bed home it was not registered to provide nursing care.

“We have tried to keep them here where they are familiar for as long as possible. But social services have stepped in and they have to go to a registered nursing home.

“They are going because they need that extra level of nursing care, not through any neglect.”

Southampton City Council, which pays for nine of the £460-a-week care beds at The Briars, has written to residents saying it is reviewing their needs and may recommend they move “due to the standards of physical care” at the home. The council said it would be inappropriate to comment due to the investigation.

Several relatives have praised staff and defended the standards of care at The Briars while accusing the police and council of over reaction and use of heavy-handed tactics.

Carol Wills, 64, whose 91-year-old mother has lived at the Briars for ten years, said residents had been “terrified and upset” by the day-long raid by 14 police officers.

“Surely there are more sensitive ways of dealing with people than this,” she said.

In a statement, police said: “This investigation is in its very early stages and there is nothing to suggest at this time that any criminal offences have been committed.

Police are continuing to work closely with health care professionals across the city to establish the facts.”

Debbie Clarke, from Southampton City Primary Care Trust, said: “Staff from Southampton City PCT’s community nursing team have been supporting patients and staff at Briars retirement home as part of their work in caring for people in the community.”

The Commission for Social Care Inspection, which last inspected the home in November, is helping the police investigation.