RELATIVES of elderly patients who died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital hope a major inquiry will shed light on what happened.
The inquiry was officially announced today after care minister Norman Lamb revealed in July that an independent investigation would be held into concerns raised about the care and subsequent deaths of patients from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
Bishop James Jones, who previously chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel will chair the independent investigation and today Mr Lamb confirmed four additional members.
They are geriatric medicine specialist Dr Colin Currie, investigative journalist David Hencke and former Scotland Yard Commander Duncan Jarrett will join the Gosport Independent Panel immediately, whilst pathology and medical records expert Dr Bill Kirkup will join after his work with the Morecombe Bay investigation concludes.
The stepson of Arthur ‘Brian’ Cunningham, who died at the hospital in 1998, aged 79, believes that it is long overdue.
Charles Farthing, said: ‘There’s been a blatant cover-up from the beginning.
‘There may have been investigations, but someone has been controlling what’s coming out and what information is not.
‘This has all been dreadful and an investigation like this should have happened 10 years ago.
‘But the system has been covering things up for whatever reason, and now I hope this investigation will get to the bottom of it all.’
His stepfather had been admitted to the hospital with bed sores, but died days later.
Dr Jane Barton had prescribed powerful painkillers, despite Mr Farthing asking for them not to be given.
The inquiry’s terms of reference are available on Gosport Independent Panel’s website.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘After consulting with the affected families, Bishop Jones has worked hard to ensure their views have been reflected in the terms of reference.
‘The Panel are calling on anyone wishes to raise any concerns about their treatment, or their relatives, at Gosport during this period, they should contact the Panel at http://gosportpanel.independent.gov.uk/
or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
‘The government has committed to maximum public disclosure of documentation relating to the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital’.
In a statement Bishop James Jones said: ‘Many families have ongoing concerns about the way their relatives were treated and how their complaints have been handled. I want to help provide clarity and understanding for the families. By working with them to set and deliver the terms of reference with a panel of experts from different fields, I believe I can achieve this.
‘Independence and integrity will be the hallmarks of the Panel’s work.’
Mr Lamb said: ‘The events at Gosport War Memorial hospital have caused immense distress to the families of the patients who died. I have confidence that this independent panel will help answer the many questions they have.’
His announcement of an independent inquiry in July was welcomed by relatives of patients who died unexpectedly at the hospital.
They had been dissatisfied with the review conducted by Professor Richard Baker, which was finally published last year.
The findings of the report revealed an over-prescription, and in some cases over-use, of opiates, and that note-taking had been poor.
The Baker report took 10 years to become public after the police probes and inquests were completed. It also found Dr Jane Barton, who was in charge of the now defunct wards, 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’.
An inquiry by the General Medical Council into Dr Barton’s fitness to practise in 2010 found there was no justification for the powerful painkillers and sedatives prescribed to Mrs Jean Stevens, 73, who died two days after being admitted for rehabilitation.
It was also found that some of the drugs prescribed were inappropriate, potentially hazardous and not in Mrs Stevens’ best interests.
Dr Barton did not seek advice when Mrs Stevens’ condition deteriorated and was found guilty of poor note keeping.
The panel was not satisfied Mrs Stevens was properly assessed before being given strong drugs.
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