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Gosport hospital deaths: police announce fresh criminal investigation

Officers will meet with families of those who died due to over-prescription of opioids

Officers will meet with families of those who died due to over-prescription of opioids


Picture: Alamy

Police have launched a fresh criminal investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where hundreds of patients died after being prescribed opioid drugs they did not need.

More than 450 people had their lives shortened unnecessarily at the Hampshire hospital between 1987 and 2001, after being given the powerful painkillers.

Further possible deaths

According to the Gosport Independent Panel report published last year, another 200 individuals at the hospital were ‘probably’ also given opioids without medical justification, which may have cut short their lives.

The care provided to patients who died at the hospital during that time will be the focus of a full police investigation, Kent and Essex Police said.

The investigation follows a review of the evidence that had emerged from the report.

Assessing evidence

Assistant chief constable Nick Downing, head of serious crime at Kent and Essex Police, said: ‘This investigation is not about numbers, it is about people – specifically those who died at the hospital and the loved ones they have left behind.

‘There have been three previous police investigations into deaths at the hospital. It was therefore important for us to carry out an initial assessment of the materials obtained by the Gosport Independent Panel to establish if it contained sufficient new information that has not already been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.’

Police will be meeting with the families of those who died, and will invite them to give statements on their experiences regarding the hospital.

Last year’s report claimed that ‘there was a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening lives of a large number of patients’ at the hospital.

The report added that there was an ‘institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering "dangerous doses" of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified’.

Prosecution call

Relatives of some of the people who died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital have campaigned for prosecutions to be instigated regarding the deaths.

Three previous investigations into 92 of the deaths by Hampshire Constabulary resulted in no charges being brought.

Misconduct ruling 

In 2010, the General Medical Council ruled that Dr Jane Barton – who has since retired – was guilty of multiple instances of professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital.

In a statement last year, 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.

In November last year, the government announced plans for NHS whistleblowers to be given better protection in an effort to improve patient safety in the wake of the Gosport panel’s report.

The Department of Health and Social Care also set out proposals to change the law to compel every NHS trust in England to report annually on how concerns raised by staff and patients have been addressed.


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