Health secretary set to meet Gosport War Memorial Hospital patients' relatives

THE health secretary is set to meet relatives of hundreds of patients who died at a hospital that showed ‘disregard for human life’.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 1:38 pm
Updated Friday, 5th July 2019, 8:11 pm
Pamela Byrne Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Matt Hancock is expected to reiterate his predecessor Jeremy Hunt’s apology to Gosport War Memorial Hospital families in the House of Commons in June last year, where Mr Hunt responded to the publication of an independent report.

Families of the 456 loved ones who had their lives shortened at the hospital through the prescription of opioids without medical justification in 1987-2001 will meet police leading a criminal probe into the deaths.

Jim Lyness, 66, from Lee-on-the-Solent, has been campaigning with relatives as his great-aunt Elsie Devine died aged 88 at the hospital in 1999, a month after she was admitted.

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He said: ‘There will be time enough for apologies and assurances after our deceased relatives have been served justice.

‘There’s a general antipathy towards any NHS speeches, apologies or assurances being made at our meetings.’

Professional bodies the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council are due to attend the forum.

Forensic pathologist Dr Nat Cary, who investigated the Ian Huntley Soham murders, will lead a medical expert panel examining records while police take relatives’ statements.

Ian Sandford from Gosport, whose mother Hasel Sandford died aged 80 at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Picture: Sarah Standing (300419-7452)

Families will be meeting Neil Jerome, recently promoted from commander in the Metropolitan police to deputy assistant commissioner.

Mr Jerome, who led the force’s response on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire, will take over from assistant chief constable Nick Downing who The News revealed is retiring for ‘personal reasons’.

Pamela Byrne's stepfather Clifford Houghton died aged 71 in 1994 at the hospital.

While Pamela, from Titchfield, said Mr Hancock’s attendance ‘shows that they’re taking it seriously’ she added Mr Downing leaving ‘arouses suspicion’.

‘There’s a bit of mistrust about what’s going on and why,’ she said. ‘It leaves you a bit churned up. Really the meeting will be finding our feet again.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘The secretary of state is attending this private meeting with the families to listen to them directly, to reiterate the apology the government has previously given and to discuss the ways in which the NHS has responded to the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.’