Gosport War Memorial Hospital criminal investigation probes 700 patient records - 250 more than before
It comes nearly two years after the Gosport Independent Panel revealed a ‘disregard for human life’ at the hospital between 1987-2001 when powerful opioids were prescribed ‘without medical justification’.
Investigators from the east of England launched a criminal probe in April last year, seizing documents from the Bury Road hospital in January this year. Three previous Hampshire police probes ended with no criminal charges.
Relatives of some of the patients who died have been told the ‘heart wrenching’ news by deputy assistant commissioner Neil Jerome.
Ann Reeves, whose 88-year-old mother Elsie Devine died at the hospital in 1999, tweeted: ‘The narrative of (the Gosport panel report) is a heart-wrenching story.’
She said families’ had their trust in the NHS ‘betrayed at GosportWMH who had a disregard for human life’.
Gillian Mackenzie, 86, whose 91-year-old mother Gladys Richards died on August 21, 1998, after being prescribed opioids.
‘This is a farce, a total farce,’ she said. ‘They haven't even sorted out the cases from my case to put it mildly.
‘They’ve been running around in circles.’
Asked about two years since the report was published, she added: ‘I’m concerned that it's taken 22 years of my life and has got no further.’
Records are being assessed and some will be passed to a panel of medical experts, before police take all the evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service for advice.
In a statement to The News, Mr Jerome said: ‘Police officers are currently reviewing more than 700 patient records as part of the ongoing criminal investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Hampshire, between 1987 and 2001.
‘The number includes those patient deaths previously identified by the Gosport Independent Panel and others that have come to light as a result of the current investigation.
‘The investigation team are continuing to make progress with this major inquiry despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with those who lost loved ones at the hospital being kept regularly updated.’
The bishop-led inquiry in 2018 found 456 patients were prescribed opioids without justification at the hospital, along with another 200 who ‘probably’ had their lives shortened.
Dr Jane Barton said she was doing the best for her patients at the time.
In his letter, Mr Jerome said: ‘Following the diligent work of the investigative team, I am able to say we are currently reviewing over 700 records.
‘That number may change through the course of the investigation. I would wish to remind families that whilst every single case will be reviewed not every case will reach the threshold for onward referral to the Medical Expert Panel.
‘This number comprises all those identified in the Gosport Independent Panel Report and, in addition, other patients who have been identified through the course of our investigation (approximately 250 additional patients).
‘This work is contributing to multiple areas of investigation, including the identification of other witnesses and identifying patterns in the care and treatment of patients prior to their death.’
He said there was a ‘large volume' of documents, with many duplicates that have to be digitised. He added that patient records were a ‘key area for the investigation’.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has been asked to pause any investigation it may carry out, he added.