Gosport hospital deaths: Former care minister Norman Lamb insists he will 'stick with' patients' relatives 'to the end'

A FORMER care minister has insisted he will support relatives of more than 650 patients who had their lives shortened at Gosport War Memorial Hospital ‘to the end’.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 3:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 3:53 pm
Sir Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and former health minister, at Ferneham Hall in Fareham today having met with relatives of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Picture: Sarah Standing (160719-4465)

Sir Norman Lamb MP, who backed a bishop-led investigation into the deaths between 1987-2001, met with families today at Ferneham Hall in Fareham.

It  comes as they were due to meet health secretary Matt Hancock and the new police officer leading a criminal probe into the deaths, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Jerome. He took over after the shock resignation of Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing.

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Sir Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and former health minister, at Ferneham Hall in Fareham today having met with relatives of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Picture: Sarah Standing (160719-4465)

Around 90 police officers from the Eastern Policing Area are currently investigating the deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital after the Gosport Independent Panel reported back last June.

Bishop James Jones' report found there 456 patients, and probably 200 more, were prescribed opioids without medical justification.

Speaking today, Sir Norman Lamb told The News: 'I was so horrified by the results of their investigation that I just think it’s incredibly important that we see justice at the end of this process.

'I wanted to explain to families what my role had been but also that I have a sense of solidarity with them, that I will stick with this. I will support them through to the end.

‘If we are to have a safe and effective health service where wrongdoing is identified and stopped straight away we have to have people willing to speak out, and having brave whistleblowers in our NHS and giving them legal protection is crucially important.

'For very many of them (the families) they have completely lost trust in the institutions that so badly let them down.

‘So the point I made in there is that they have the responsibility to win the trust of these families to convince them that lessons really have been learnt, and so far as the police investigation is concerned that it is conducted thoroughly to stand the best possible chance of a prosecution, and indeed a successful prosecution .

But Sir Norman said the change at the top of the police investigation has prompted questions from families.

He said: ‘It's destabilising, it inevitably results in people asking questions why. I've spoken to the new chief of the investigation who gives every impression of being committed to doing this properly, he's very experienced from the Metropolitan police.

'Obviously the police have got to be held to account in the work that they do but ensuring there is a thorough investigation - that no stone is left unturned - is incredibly important in giving us the best chance for a successful prosecution.’

Sir Norman said health secretary Matt Hancock must ‘listen’ to the families of patients at Gosport.

He said: ‘I think it's very important that he comes and hears from the families so I am pleased that is happening, but he also has to listen to them to understand why they feel so mistrustful of institutions now.’