Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Inquests open into deaths of four people

INQUESTS have been opened into the deaths of four patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 9:34 am
Updated Thursday, 14th October 2021, 10:40 am

A coroner opened the inquests into the deaths of Clifford Houghton, 71, Dulcie Middleton, 86, Eva Page, 88, and Horace Smith, 73. They died between 1994-2001.

Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard no post mortem was carried out in the cases of Mrs Page and Mr Houghton, as Dr Jane Barton had given a preliminary cause of death in each case.

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Dulcie Middleton

An application was brought to open the inquests by solicitors Leigh Day who said the ineffective investigations into the deaths had left families without justice.

They hope that the inquests will be joined with a wider scope to investigate individuals and organisations involved in the deaths.

A criminal investigation is ongoing into the suspected use of opioids without clinical justification. An independent report released in 2018 found about 650 patients had their lives shortened by the use of opioids without reason.

David Wilson’s aunt Dulcie Middleton died aged 86 at Petersfield Hospital in September 2001 following treatment at Gosport in August of that year.

David Wilson, the nephew of Dulcie Middleton, outside Portsmouth Coroner’s Court Picture: Ben Fishwick

He attended the hearings this morning where all inquests were adjourned pending the criminal investigation into hundreds of deaths between 1987-2001.

Mr Wilson told The News getting to the openings today was ‘immense’ and said ‘there should have been an inquest’ when his aunt died.

He said: ‘It’s immense, I’m so grateful to Leigh Day for the efforts that they’ve put in. They’ve had to go through a lot of documentation.

‘To know that my aunt died in September of 2001 and there should have been an inquest - poor Marjorie, the daughter - I think it will be an immense relief when we’re able to sit in front of a coroner and hear all of the evidence.’

Pamela Byrne remembering her stepfather, Clifford Houghton, at the release of the Gosport Independent Panel's report into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in June 2018 Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Op Magenta is looking into the deaths and the suspected use of opioids without clinical justification.

Coroner Christopher Wilkinson said: ‘Based on the information received an investigation will be commenced by the Hampshire Coroner Service subject to the outcomes of Operation Magenta, on that basis and pending further enquiries I’m now adjourning.’

The coroner said he extended his ‘sincere condolence’ to all the families whose inquests had been opened.

Dulcie Middleton, of Jamaica Place, Gosport, was admitted to the Gosport hospital in March 2001 for ‘temporary rehabilitation’ after being first admitted to Haslar following a stroke, the hearing was told.

Now for Justice

She was sent to QA Hospital on August 6, then to Petersfield Hospital on August 16 before she died on September 2. There was no post mortem.

Horace Smith, of Gosport, died on April 6, 1999, at Haslar hospital having been admitted to the Gosport hospital with acute pancreatitis on March 8.

After first being admitted he was ‘on the road to recovery,’ the coroner said. He then moved to Gosport on March 30.

‘His health is then reported to have deteriorated rapidly,’ the coroner said.

He was moved back to Haslar where he died due to acute pancreatitis on April 6.

Eva Page, of Lee-on-the-Solent, died on March 3, 1998. She had been transferred to Gosport’s Dryad Ward on February 27 of that year from QA Hospital.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Bury Rd, Gosport. Picture: Chris Moorhouse (230219-5)

Clifford Houghton, of Gosport, died at Gosport on February 6, 1994. He was admitted on January 31 that year ‘for a period of respite care’ for a week.

Records show he deteriorated at the hospital, having been prescribed diamorphine - a powerful opioid.

Dr Barton gave his cause of death as cerebrovascular disease, and dementia.

No date was set for a further hearing.

Solicitors Leigh Day have asked attorney general Suella Braverman to open inquests into three other patients’ deaths.

They are: Arthur Cunningham who died at 79, Gladys Richards who died in August 1998, and Robert Wilson, who died at 85 in 1998.

Solicitor Emma Jones said: ‘In his 2018 report following the independent inquiry into events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, the Rt Rev James Jones said he expected authorities to address historical concerns that families have carried for over 20 years.

‘We hope that the opening of these inquests is the start of that process.’