Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Gosport War Memorial Hospital deaths inquiry launched

(clockwise from top left) - Robert Wilson, Geoffrey Packman, Arthur (Brian) Cunningham, Sheila Gregory, Enid Spurgin, Ruby Lake and Elsie Devine Image copyright BBC/PA
Image caption Inquests into the deaths of 10 patients, seven of whom are pictured, were held in 2009

An independent investigation into the deaths of dozens of elderly patients at a hospital has been launched.

A review into the deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire between 1988 and 2000 found an "almost routine use of opiates had almost certainly" shortened the lives of some patients.

Care minister Norman Lamb said "unanswered questions" remained about the care of the patients who died.

Police investigated the deaths of 92 patients but brought no prosecutions.

'On-going concerns'

"The events at Gosport War Memorial hospital have caused immense distress to the families of the patients who died," said Mr Lamb.

"I have confidence that this independent panel will help answer the many questions they have."

The Gosport Independent Panel will include geriatric medicine specialist Dr Colin Currie, investigative journalist David Hencke, former Scotland Yard Commander Duncan Jarrett and pathology and medical records expert Dr Bill Kirkup.

It was announced in July the panel will be headed by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, who led the Hillsborough inquiry.

"Many families have on-going concerns about the way their relatives were treated and how their complaints have been handled," said Mr Jones.

"I want to help provide clarity and understanding for the families. By working with them to set and deliver the terms of reference with a panel of experts from different fields, I believe I can achieve this."

Image caption Gladys Richards, 91, died at Gosport Memorial Hospital in August 1998

Inquests into 10 deaths at the hospital in 2009 found that drugs were a contributory factor in some cases.

In 2013 a coroner gave a narrative verdict at the inquest into the death of Gladys Richards, of Lee-on-the-Solent, and said painkillers and sedatives givens to the 91-year-old "more than insignificantly" contributed to her death in 1998.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2010

In 2010 the General Medical Council found Dr Jane Barton guilty of a series of failings in her care of 12 patients who were treated at the hospital between 1996 and 1999.

Dr Barton was found to have prescribed "potentially hazardous" levels of drugs to patients who later died at the hospital.

Despite the council's findings, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution on gross negligence manslaughter charges.

The inquiry is due to finish in 2017.

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