Gosport hospital deaths: This is why it took decades for claims to be investigated 

Bridget Reeves at Portsmouth Cathedral after the Gosport War Memorial Hospital report was revealed in June
Bridget Reeves at Portsmouth Cathedral after the Gosport War Memorial Hospital report was revealed in June
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CONCERNS had surrounded the treatment of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital for decades.

However, it wasn’t until The News published a front page special investigation into the death of Gladys Richards, that things were taken seriously.

The News’s then reporter Jonathan Carter published his report on April 3, 2001, headlined: Probe Into Suspicious Death at Hospital – police investigation into alleged unlawful killing of patient, 91.

In a 370-page report into the scandal released 17 years later, in June, the role The News played in bringing the situation to light was praised by a panel of independent experts.

The report, led by Bishop James Jones, took four years to complete at a cost £14m.

But it’s findings were stark. The document said there had been a ‘disregard for human life’ and told how patients who were considered a ‘nuisance’ were given drugs on syringe drivers that killed them within days.

In all, it found 456 people had their lives shortened after being prescribed powerful painkillers at Gosport.

But it also raised question marks over a further 200 people, which the report said were ‘probably’ similarly administered with opioids without medical justification.

Dr Jane Barton was criticised for her role in the deaths, which consisted mostly of elderly people, at Gosport while she worked there between 1988 and 2000.

In the wake of the panel’s findings, Dr Barton said did the best for her patients

For years, questions had been raised about Dr Barton – who was found guilty of misconduct by the General Medical Council.

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.

But the panel found an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering’ dangerous doses of opioids that shortened’ patients’ lives.

It found the separate case of Dr Harold Shipman, who was jailed for murdering 15 patients, cast a shadow’ on the police investigations.

The bishop added: ‘Although the consultants were not involved directly in treating patients on the wards, the medical records show they were aware of how drugs were prescribed and administered but did not intervene to stop the practice.’