The expected completion date of a formal review into a number of suspicious deaths at a hospital has been pushed back.
An inquiry was launched in 2014 into the deaths of a number of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1988 and 2000.
The investigation, led by former bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones –who previously chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel into the disaster – was due to conclude in December 2017.
But the government has announced work is now expected to finish in spring 2018.
Health Minister Philip Dunne said in a written parliamentary statement: ‘On July 10, 2014, the former minister for care services, Norman Lamb, announced the establishment of the Gosport Independent Panel, chaired by Bishop James Jones, set up to review documentary evidence held across a range of organisations concerning the initial care of families’ relatives and subsequent investigations into Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
‘When the former minister announced the terms of reference for the Gosport Independent Panel on December 9, 2014, the government expected the panel to complete its work by December 2017.
‘As a consequence of the greater number of families now in contact with the panel and the increase in the volume of material the panel is reviewing, the panel now expects to complete its work in spring 2018.’
A report into the hospital by Dr Richard Baker took 10 years to become public after the police probes and inquests were completed.
It found Dr Jane Barton, who was in charge of the now defunct wards at GWH, had a higher percentage of patients whose cause of death was put down to bronchopneumonia, and prescribed a higher number of opiates before a patient’s death.
It also found there ‘were no clear clusters of deaths’, but the proportion of patients at Gosport who did receive opiates before death was ‘remarkably high’.