FRAUD police have been called in to investigate a company which provides home care for elderly, vulnerable and terminally-ill patients in Sheffield and Rotherham.
Abacus Care South Yorkshire, which specialises in palliative and dementia care for patients in their homes, has been suspended by the NHS.
More than 30 families have been thrown into turmoil, with Sheffield Council’s Care4U staff taking over from the firm.
South Yorkshire Police and the NHS Counter Fraud Service are investigating Abacus, with raids carried out at the company’s Rotherham office, The Star can reveal.
Abacus denies wrongdoing and says nearly 60 jobs have been put at risk by the loss of the NHS contract.
Today the firm demanded a ‘full inquiry’ into why its offices have been raided.
Craig Ball, whose 80-year-old mother Margaret suffers severe dementia, is furious at the interruption to her care.
“She is terrified at the change - she needs continuity,” said Craig, 52, who lives with his mother on Ferrars Road, Tinsley.
“Abacus were really good, really professional, and the Care4U staff have not been nearly as good.
“I’m having to stay next to my mother at night because she is terrified and confused.”
Health bosses in Sheffield and Rotherham said they suspended Abacus’ contract over ‘allegations concerning patient safety, staff processes and quality of care’.
But speaking before police raided his buildings, Abacus manager Guffar Ahmed said the suspension of the contract was ‘unjustified’.
Mr Ahmed, who runs the South Yorkshire franchise with his brother Zulfqar from offices on Moorgate Street, added: “We’ve been working with the NHS for four years, and have provided a service which went way beyond our contract.”
He claimed the contract had been suspended ‘over paperwork and length of visits’.
“A great deal of time and effort went into meeting requirements of the action plan,” he added. “For the staff then to be told the service was being suspended was devastating.
“Nearly 60 staff are going to have to sign on, and vulnerable and dying people are seeing their care disrupted.”
The suspension, and subsequent police investigation, came after the NHS called in the Care Quality Commission watchdog to inspect the company in December.
The inspectors’ report ordered Abacus to improve safety standards, and highlighted ‘concerns’ at a failure to meet government regulations. It said the firm was failing to consistently gather references for new staff, and said it was lacking systems to monitor the quality of care patients receive.
An NHS Sheffield and NHS Rotherham spokeswoman said: “An investigation is taking place. The contract has been suspended. Patients can be reassured they will continue to receive care in the same way, but delivered by an alternative care provider.”
South Yorkshire Police confirmed they had taken part in a joint operation ‘in the Rotherham area’ with NHS Counter Fraud staff.