Gosport hospital deaths: Nurse who tried to expose scandal was forced out of her job, daughter says

A NURSE who tried to expose the tragedies at Gosport War Memorial Hospital was forced out of her job after speaking out, her daughter has claimed.

Friday, 22nd June 2018, 9:52 am
Updated Friday, 22nd June 2018, 10:53 am
Families gather outside Portsmouth Cathedral on Wednesday. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Sylvia Giffin was among those who first raised concerns about the poor prescribing and administration of opioids at the hospital nearly 30 years ago.

The damning report published by the £14m Gosport Independent Panel on Wednesday revealed fears nurses were ‘silenced’ by management, leading to deaths on the hospital’s wards between 1989 and 2000.

In total, it is believed 456 patients died there after being prescribed ‘dangerous doses’ of opioids ‘without medical justification’ – with 200 more expected to have ‘probably’ lost their lives because of the practice.

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Mrs Giffin’s daughter Penny Wilson said her mother ended up with depression after being bullied in the wake of her claims.

She told the Daily Mirror: ‘After my mum spoke up, they were at her for every single thing.

‘It made her very unwell. They forced her out but tried to blame it on ill health.’

Early in 1991, Mrs Giffin’s colleague Anita Tubbritt rang Keith Murray, the local Royal College of Nursing branch convener, to express concerns over the use of diamorphine and syringe drivers.

Mr Murray had a meeting at the home of Mrs Giffin with five or six other nurses who said diamorphine ‘was being prescribed without due consideration being given to the use of milder sedatives first’.

A staff meeting was held in July and 10 nurses attended, raising concerns about the use of diamorphine and that ‘patients’ deaths are sometimes hastened unnecessarily’.

Another meeting was held in December for all staff members concerned about the prescribing of diamorphine - but the inquiry found it had ‘had the effect of silencing the nurses’ concerns’.

The Panel’s report stated: ‘The documents reviewed by the Panel show that, between February 1991 and January 1992, a number of nurses raised concerns about the prescribing of drugs, in particular diamorphine.

‘In so doing, the nurses involved, supported by their Royal College of Nursing branch convener, gave the hospital the opportunity to rectify the practice.

‘In choosing not to do so, the opportunity was lost, deaths resulted and, 22 years later, it became necessary to establish this Panel in order to discover the truth of what happened.’

Ms Wilson said her mother, who died in 2003, would have been ‘greatly upset’ by not being listened to, and shocked that they ‘seemed to put the institution above the welfare of the patients’.

She added that other nurses agreed with her mother, but were too frightened to speak out.

In the wake of the report, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said the ‘blame’ culture in the NHS had to change, and said it was sometimes made too difficult for whistleblowers to raise concerns or for medics to admit mistakes.

And speaking to The News, professor Sir Brian Jarman, head of the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London, said he does not have confidence whistleblowers are listened to by the NHS.

He said: ‘I don’t feel confident and won’t until there is an independent of the NHS regulator they can go to.’

Prof Jarman, whose team flags up monthly mortality reports from NHS Hospitals to the Care Quality Commission, said much of his data – linked to deaths after treatment – ‘goes uninvestigated’.

This occurs, he said, despite there being ‘a one in a hundred chance’ the information is a ‘false alarm’.

As families affected by the tragic deaths now spearhead a crowdfunding campaign to take their case to crminal court, Prof Jarman said: ‘I wish them success and justice.’