Published: Sat, June 23, 2018
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Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Families want criminal charges over painkiller deaths

Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Families want criminal charges over painkiller deaths

The Gosport Independent Panel found more than 450 people had had their lives shortened after being prescribed powerful painkillers, while another 200 were "probably" similarly administered opioids between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification.

The report of the Gosport Independent Panel was published on Wednesday morning after a four-year, £14-million investigation into the deaths of hundreds of patients under the care of the GP Dr Jane Barton.

Bishop Jones, who formerly chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, said that documents revealed "an institutionalised practice of the shortening of lives through prescribing and administering opioids without medical justification".

In 2010, the GMC ruled that Dr Barton, who has since retired, was guilty of multiple instances of professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital. A further 200 people whose records were now lost or incomplete were likely to have been affected by the "culture of shortening lives" at the hospital, it says.

He says the system failed the affected families.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to address MPs on the findings of the Gosport inquiry later, and will face questions about the previous investigations and whether charges should now be brought.

The report released on Wednesday found that a clinical assistant, Dr Jane Barton, was "responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards" over a 12-year period.

The inquiry into what happened at Gosport War Memorial Hospital is being led by the former bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones.

The senior management of the hospital, healthcare organisations, Hampshire Constabulary, local politicians, the coronial system, the Crown Prosecution Service, the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) all failed to act in ways that would have better protected patients and relatives, whose interests some subordinated to the reputation of the hospital and the professions involved.

A photo of Rhoda Cunningham and husband Arthur, who died at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital near Portsmouth in 1998.

"When the relatives complained about the safety of patients and the appropriateness of their care, they were consistently let down by those in authority - both individuals and institutions". The records show that the nurses did not discharge that responsibility and continued to administer the drugs prescribed.

The panel can not "ascribe criminal or civil liability", but has called on the relevant investigative authorities to act on the report, says The Daily Telegraph.

Campaigners have called for tougher action following the publication of the report.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, of Hampshire Constabulary, said the force had "co-operated fully" with the panel and "shared with them more than 25,000 documents containing 100,000 pages of information".

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