Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Police launch fresh investigation into 650 patient deaths

CARE given to hundreds of patients who ‘had their lives shortened’ at Gosport War Memorial Hospital will be the subject of a ‘full police investigation’.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 6:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:03 pm
Gosport War Memorial Hospital

An independent police team led by assistant chief constable Nick Downing, from the Eastern Policing Region will start a criminal investigation into the way staff cared for more than 650 patients who died at the hospital between 1987-2001.

This will be the fourth probe into the deaths of patients who a bishop-led report found had their ‘lives shortened’ through the unjustified use of opioids.

Surviving relatives of the patients will be interviewed one-by-one.

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Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Relatives of the dead are at Ferneham Hall in Fareham this morning hearing from assistant Mr Downing, who has been leading a review into the evidence used in the bishop-led report that found there was a ‘disregard for human life’ at the hospital.

Bishop James Jones’ Gosport Independent Paul found more than 450 patients died after being given ‘dangerous’ levels of drugs on wards at the hospital with Dr Jane Barton in a position of responsibility for the patients.

The GP, who worked at Gosport and later Forton Medical Centre in Gosport, was found to be ‘responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards’, Bishop Jones said.

Today in a statement, Mr Downing said: The families of those affected by the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital are at the heart of everything we do, and I hope the news that we will now be carrying out a full investigation is of some comfort to them.

ACC Nick Downing

‘This investigation is not about numbers, it is about people – specifically those who died at the hospital and the loved ones they have left behind.

‘There have been three previous police investigations into deaths at the hospital. It was therefore important for us to carry out an initial assessment of the materials obtained by the Gosport Independent Panel to establish if it contained sufficient new information that has not already been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.

‘Now that we have launched a full investigation we will be arranging to meet with the families on a one-to-one basis and invite them to give statements on their own experiences with the hospital, as it is their accounts about the loss of their loved ones that will help put the medical assessments we have into context.

‘This is a highly complex and emotive case that some family members have been living with for more than 30 years, and I would like to thank them for their continuing patience and understanding during this process.’

Jim Lyness, 66, from Lee-on-the-Solent, whose great-aunt Elsie Devine died aged 88 at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. His grandmother Lena Lyness also died at the hospital. He is pictured outside Ferneham Hall in Fareham before a meeting with police on April 30, 2019 Picture: Ben Fishwick

The saga has been mired in controversy with relatives split between trusting the new police team and others having little confidence.

Officers will be drawn from across Britain to take part in the probe.

Last October Mr Downing told around 160 relatives at a similar family forum that the assessment could end with no police action, no action and recommendations for other agencies, a criminal investigation toward a prosecution, or a need for more police work.

The bishop-led inquiry found 456 patients were prescribed opioids without justification at the hospital, and another 200 probably had their lives shortened.

Dr Barton said she was doing the best for her patients at the time. She was found guilty of misconduct by the General Medical Council.

A statement read last June by Dr Barton’s husband Tim outside their Alverstoke home, said: ‘Jane would like to thank her family, friends, colleagues, former patients and the many others for their continued support and loyalty through this protracted inquiry.

‘She has always maintained that she was a hard-working, dedicated doctor, doing the best for her patients in a very inadequately resourced part of the health service.’

Hampshire police recused itself from the investigation and Kent and Essex police’s serious crime directorate, led by Mr Nick Downing, has taken over reviewing the evidence after the bishop-led inquiry reported in June last year.