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'Horrifying, shameful, unforgivable': UK families call for criminal charges over hospital deaths

An independent inquiry looked into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

Families gather outside at the publication of the report yesterday.
Families gather outside at the publication of the report yesterday.
Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

MORE THAN 450 patients died at a hospital in England after being given strong painkillers without “medical justification”, a report has found.

An independent panel led the investigation into the deaths between 1989 and 2000 at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in the southern city of Gosport.

“The hospital records to which the panel has had privileged access demonstrate that 456 patients died through prescribing and administering opioids without medical justification,” the commission, led by former Liverpool bishop James Jones, said in a statement.

It added that, taking into account missing records, another 200 patients may have died as a direct result of the “institutionalised practice” of administering powerful drugs.

The report said that Dr Jane Barton had been “responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards”.

The documents showed that several nurses raised concerns about the prescribing of diamorphine in the early 1990s, but their warnings “went unheeded”, according to the panel.

“The opportunity to rectify the practice was lost, deaths resulted and 22 years later it became necessary to establish the panel in order to discover the truth of what happened,” it said.

Furthermore, it said that the hospital played host to an “institutionalised practice of shortening lives” under the direction of Dr Barton.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the findings “deeply troubling”, saying the deaths had “brought unimaginable heartache to the families concerned”.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the report had identified a “catalogue of failings” by the authorities and apologised to relatives of the victims.

“The police… will now carefully examine the new material in the report before determining their next steps and in particular whether criminal charges should now be brought,” he said.

In a statement on behalf of families who were affected, Bridget Reeves – whose grandmother Elsie Devine was a patient at the hospital – said: “This has been sinister, calculated and those implicated must now face the rigour of the criminal justice system.

Accountability must take precedence here. These horrifying, shameful, unforgivable actions need to be disclosed in a criminal court for a jury to decide and only then can we put our loved ones to rest.

With reporting from Sean Murray

© – AFP 2018

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