A piece in today’s Telegraph. I can’t help but think that if Dr Jane Barton were a man, she would be serving a very lengthy prison sentence by now, and this matter would have attracted far more media coverage.
The families of hospital patients who died after suffering “neglect’” and receiving “dangerous” levels of powerful painkillers have called for “Hillsborough-style” inquests into their deaths.
A total of 456 people had their lives cut short and another 200 were “probably” given drugs without medical justification at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1987 and 2001.
Lawyers for five families have now submitted a request for judge-led hearings into the deaths of their loved ones after an independent review found there was a “disregard for human life” at the Hampshire hospital.
The damning Gosport Independent Panel report, published in 2018, revealed how patients who were viewed as a “nuisance” were given opiates via syringe drivers, often resulting in their deaths within days.
Some of those who died were given medication by Dr Jane Barton, who retired after she was found guilty by the General Medical Council of failing in her care of 12 patients at the hospital.
The Attorney General is now carrying out a “thorough” review of the fresh application after lawyers representing some of the families said more wide-ranging inquests, similar to those that examined the Hillsborough disaster, were needed.
At the same time, Kent police are continuing to investigate the hundreds of deaths after taking over the inquiry from Hampshire police last year.
Among those calling for new inquests is the family of Dulcie Middleton, who claim her treatment at the hospital was neglectful and inhumane, that she was not assisted with food and was denied basic nursing care before she died aged 86, in 2001.
Mrs Middleton’s daughter Marjorie, 78, told The Telegraph: “My mother died 20 years ago but I won’t feel she’s been properly laid to rest until the truth comes out at a proper inquest. Nobody should go into hospital and end up in the state she did. She was neglected and suffered terrible treatment.”
Also pressing for a judge-led inquest are the family of 88-year-old Eva Page, who the panel concluded had suffered opioid usage without appropriate clinical need.
The family of Cliff Houghton, a 72-year-old naval veteran, who was admitted to the hospital in 1994 with speech and mobility issues, are also calling for an inquest.
Pam Byrne, his stepdaughter, told the BBC Mr Houghton deteriorated suddenly at the hospital which she believes was down to being administered a large dose of diamorphine.
She said: “How could they ignore so many deaths with so many similar reasons on death certificates? It went on for years.”
The 2018 review panel concluded that Mr Houghton was given opioids without appropriate clinical indication. Ms Byrne believes there is reason to suspect her stepfather died a violent or unnatural death, which triggers a statutory obligation to investigate through an inquest.
Emma Jones, partner at Leigh Day, who are representing the families, said: “The ultimate aim is to try to get something akin to the most recent Hillsborough inquests – with a judge and jury.
“Both tragedies have had families campaigning for decades for truth and justice on behalf of their deceased loved ones. Following the Hillsborough Report, fresh inquests were ordered. We hope to get to that place for the families.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said: “The AGO will review the application with the thoroughness and sensitivity it deserves and therefore it will take time for this to be done to the highest standard.”
The Gosport Independent Review Panel report drew parallels with the case of Harold Shipman, the Manchester GP who was found by an inquiry to have killed 250 people, and with Beverley Allitt, the Lincolnshire nurse who killed four children in the 1960s.
In a statement issued after publication of the report in 2018, Dr Barton said she was a “hard-working doctor” who was “doing her best” for patients in a “very inadequately resourced” part of the NHS.
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