NINE private care homes run by the same company are being investigated after several deaths and complaints about the quality of care received by patients.

West Sussex County Council suspended new placements to eight homes run by Sussex Health Care (SHC) in August.

Two Horsham sites were identified at the time – The Laurels in Guildford Road and Orchard Lodge in Dorking Road.

The council has now revealed the names of four more homes in Horsham and one each in East Grinstead, Crawley and Billingshurst which are all the subject of a safeguarding investigation undertaken by the county council, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Sussex Police.

SHC operates all nine care homes which are under scrutiny by the authorities.

The organisation has reportedly received complaints about the care of 43 people, 12 of who have since died.

A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said: “The provider is working with the agencies to provide the information requested.”

She added the decision to publish the details of all nine facilities was made at the Safeguarding Adults Board last month.

A CQC inspection of the Orchard Lodge care home in July produced a rating of inadequate.

The CQC said the inspection was “prompted, in part, by notification of four historical service user deaths from 2016, the circumstances of which were raised as a concern in April”.

It noted there had also been five subsequent safeguarding and quality concerns raised by partner agencies.

The CQC said it would not be commenting until all the inspection reports had been published.

The county council’s contract with the firm is estimated to be worth millions.

The council spokesman said residents funded by the county council are now being offered the opportunity to move elsewhere if they preferred to do so.

Dr James Walsh, health and adult social care committee vice-chairman, previously told The Argus the scale of the initial suspension of the care homes was “very unusual”.

Dr Walsh said: “Usually a suspension would affect one home where there are concerns about the quality of care or finances.

“It raises a lot of questions that need answering about the nature of the investigation.”

Councillor Peter Catchpole, a long-time paid adviser of SHC, resigned as cabinet member for health at the end of July for what he stated were “personal reasons”.

The council said it removed his adult social care responsibilities to ensure that there was no risk of any actual or perceived conflict of interest.

The authority said Mr Catchpole had avoided decisions or briefings that may relate to SHC.

SHC said it wrote to residents, relatives and staff about the investigation of the first two care homes as soon as it was launched and measures were in place to ensure residents’ safety and wellbeing.

An SHC spokesman said the group was still “working openly” with police and the county council to support the ongoing investigation.