More than 450 patients had their lives shortened after being given powerful painkillers inappropriately at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, a report has found.
The report also suggested that, due to missing records, the real figures could reach up to 650 people. The independent inquiry, which started in 2014, reviewed 833 death certificates signed off by Dr Jane Barton, who has been at the centre of the scandal.
The report stated that there was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering “dangerous” amounts of a medication that was not clinically justified. It also found that there was a “disregard for human life” of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000.
The only person so far to face disciplinary action is Dr Jane Barton, who oversaw the practice of prescribing on the wards. Barton was found guilty of failings in her care of 12 patients between 1996 and 1999, but no prosecutions were brought and she was not struck off the medical register. She has since retired.
Former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, who led the Gosport Independent Panel, said: “The documents seen by the panel show that for a 12-year period a clinical assistant, Dr Barton, was responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards.
“Although the consultants were not involved directly in treating patients on the wards, the medical records show that they were aware of how drugs were prescribed and administered but did not intervene to stop the practice.”
Police previously investigated the deaths of 92 patients during three inquires between 1998 and 2006, but no prosecutions were brought.
Concerns about the poor prescribing and administration of opioids at Gosport War Memorial Hospital were first raised nearly 30 years ago by nursing staff, but the staff alleged that they were “silenced” by management.
In 1991 a staff nurse at the hospital rang the local Royal College of Nursing branch convener, to express concerns she and other staff shared over the use of diamorphine and syringe drivers.
Dr Jane Barton’s Husband, Tim Barton, released a statement today saying that she had been under a huge amount of pressure, and was severely overworked. Instead of trying to find a new Harold Shipman, it might be more constructive to ask why a part-time GP was looking after 48 beds,” he said.
“No one has seen any of the letters she sent saying, ‘You cannot keep sending me this number of patients, I cannot cope with this number’.”
The granddaughter of one patient who died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, Bridget Reeves, released a statement saying that the authorities “locked together” to cover up the truth of what happened. She also thanked the panel for their findings, but listed drew attention to the previous failed inquiries and investigations.