A report has been published today which has concluded that 456 patients died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital since 1989 as a result of “administering opioids without medical justification”. A further 200 patients may also have died as a result from the sedative medication misuse but records were missing in those cases.

The report has openly stated that an “institutionalised practice of shortening lives” was overseen by a GP at the hospital, Dr Jane Barton, who was found guilty of professional misconduct by the General Medical Council in 2010 but was not struck off. Today’s findings once again bring to light Dr Barton’s misconduct with prescribing painkillers over a period of 12 years, yet at the time there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Previously there have been several inquiries into the Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal, yet no verdict had ever been reached as to whether or not sedative medication was misprescribed, leaving hundreds of families waiting nearly 30 years for answers. The Gosport Independent Panel today concluded that there had been a “disregard for human life” following the patient deaths between 1989 and 2000.

In 2009, inquests were held into the death of 10 patients and drugs were found to be a “contributory factor” in some cases. One particular patient, Elsie Devine, 88, was admitted to the hospital with minor concerns in 1999. After being given powerful sedatives she lost consciousness and never recovered. The 2009 inquest into her death found the drugs she had been given were “not appropriate” for her condition.

Over 800 death certificates have been analysed along with police documents, coroner reports and NHS reports. The independent report was due to be published in December 2017 but the deadline was extended following a number of additional families coming forward.

Relatives have described the ordeal has “harrowing” as they have waited for answers for many years.

Government Legislation Changes – Will This Affect Future Access To Justice?

The Government is trying to bring in fixed costs for clinical negligence claims worth less than or equal to £25,000. If approved, this means families like those involved in the Gosport Hospital scandal will find it even harder to get access to justice as such cases are expensive to investigate and will simply not be viable if fixed costs are imposed because such cases usually attract awards of less than £25,000, though every case turns on its own facts..  Following a consultation into these fixed cost proposals, a working group has been set up and is expected to report back later this year on fixing costs and wider reforms of the clinical negligence process.

In another bold and widely criticised move, the NHS is proposing bringing in a ‘safe space’ which would mean that any evidence collected as part of an internal investigation, such as the Gosport case, would not be disclosed to the patients or their families and only the final report will be provided (see here for more information). The ‘safe space’ is intended to improve the quality of investigations and provide an opportunity for those involved to discuss candidly what happened yet many feel this is a threat to patient safety and confidence in the NHS.

Our Head of Clinical Negligence, James Thompson, comments:

It is unacceptable that relatives have had to wait so long for this investigation to conclude.  However, this investigation must be welcomed and, it is hoped, will provide much needed answers to allow the relatives of the victims to move on.

It is disturbing that such gross misconduct was allowed to continue for so long without action being taken to save these patients.  My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and I greatly admire and respect those families who have refused to give up despite decades of barriers to truth being put in their way.  I truly hope that there will now be accountability so that justice is served.

Do you have any concerns regarding a clinical negligence matter? Call us today on 0113 284 5000 to speak to a member of our team.


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