‘I could’ve walked away’ – How Dr Jane Barton responded when police quizzed her over Gosport hospital deaths

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THE doctor at the heart of investigations into the deaths of 650 patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital told police she ‘felt obliged’ to pre-prescribe opioids linked to the deaths.

Dr Jane Barton, a former GP, was quizzed by police during a third police investigation into the deaths.

Doctor Jane Barton attends an inquest into the deaths of several patients in March 2009. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Doctor Jane Barton attends an inquest into the deaths of several patients in March 2009. Picture: Chris Ison/PA Wire

A four-year investigation last week found at least 456 patients had their lives shortened between 1988 and 2000, with probably another 200 added to that grim total.

Now police interview transcripts, released as part of the Gosport Independent Panel’s findings that there was a ‘disregard for human life’ at the hospital, show how Dr Barton, 69, responded to police questions.

As reported, the panel found there was an ‘institutionalised practice of shortening lives’ with the use of opioids ‘without appropriate clinical justification’.

Dr Barton, who has so far not responded to last week’s government-established panel, told police on November 11, 2004, that she started as a clinical assistant in elderly medicine at the hospital in 1988 while working at Forton Medical Practice as a GP. She quit the hospital in 2000.

Dr Barton, who qualified in 1972, said during her 12 years as clinical assistant, patients became more dependent and workload increased.

She said two consultants, Dr Althea Lord and Dr Jane Tandy, had ‘considerable responsibilities elsewhere’ and their time at the hospital was ‘significantly limited’.

Dr Barton was later found guilty of misconduct by the General Medical Council and requested herself that she was taken off the register.

The report published last Wednesday said while Dr Barton and consultants had responsibility for prescribing, nurses had been left to decide ‘when to start the medication and syringe driver, and what dose to administer within the range prescribed’.

In her November 11, 2004, police interview, she said: ‘I felt obliged to adopt a policy of pro-active prescribing, giving nurses a degree of discretion and administering within a range of medication.

‘As a result if the patients’ condition deteriorated such that they required further medication to ease pain and suffering that medication could be given, even though the staffing arrangements at the hospital were such that no medical staff could attend to see the patient.

‘This was of assistance, in particular out of hours.

‘It was a practice adopted out of necessity but one in which I had trust and confidence in the nurses who would be acting on my prescripts and indeed in which the nurses would routinely liaise with me as and when increases of medication were made, even within authority of the prescription.

‘I accept that this would not be necessary in a teaching hospital or even a big district general hospital.’

Dr Barton added: ‘At no time was I ever informed that my practice in this regard was inappropriate.’

Dr Barton’s solicitor at the time was Ian Barker, from the Medical Defence Union. The MDU will not comment.

The Gosport doctor also told police she ‘felt obliged’ to remain at the hospital and had raised concerns about her workload in 1998.

She said: ‘I could have said I couldn’t do the job any more and walked away, resigning my position at that time.’

n Did you work with Dr Barton? Call (023) 9262 2118.