After nearly 20 years, 3 police investigations, a coroner’s inquest and a Department of Health clinical audit, an independent panel has published a report on the deaths of patients at Gosport War Memorial hospital.
The inquiry, led by the former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones, found that the lives of 456 patients were shortened by the inappropriate use of opioids, with a further 200 “probably similarly affected”.
The report concluded that there was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering dangerous amounts of drugs, without clinical justification. Concerns raised by nurses as early as 1991 were ignored by the hospital and medical regulators, and patients who voiced concern were disregarded and labelled as “troublemakers”. The only person thus far to face disciplinary action is Dr Jane Barton who was responsible for prescribing practices on the wards, and under whose tenure there was found to be a “disregard for human life”. No prosecutions were brought, however, and Dr Barton was not struck off the medical register, preferring to retire following findings of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council in 2010.
The report makes it clear that there was a catalogue of catastrophic errors and a systemic failure to provide adequate care which sadly resulted in the unnecessary and premature deaths of many patients. It is disheartening to read that the concerns raised by some of the nursing staff were brushed aside and ignored over several years.
It is hoped that the bereaved families of the victims will finally achieve some semblance of justice now that the veil has been lifted on these tragic events.