A police investigation has begun into hundreds of deaths at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in Hampshire, England.
The Gosport War Memorial Hospital is being investigated by police for a fourth time following an inquiry which found that 456 patients died after being prescribed opiate drugs at the hospital.
The incidents were reported between 1989 and 2000. The previous three investigations resulted in no charges being brought against any of the staff, though it was found that there was “a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients” and an “an institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering dangerous doses of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified, with patients and relatives powerless in their relationship with professional staff.”
The last inquiry, in 2018, suggested that patients who were deemed a “nuisance” were given opiates which often resulted in their deaths.
BREAK: Police announce another investigation into deaths at GOSPORT War memorial hospital – 4th such investigation pic.twitter.com/pZ9ZhcGp4C
— Dan Rivers (@danriversitv) April 30, 2019
Dr Jane Barton, who was responsible for overseeing medication prescribed to patients, was found guilty by a medical panel of serious professional misconduct in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999, being criticised for her “brusque, unfriendly and indifferent” manner and her “intransigence and worrying lack of insight”.
Nevertheless, Barton — often described as “Doctor Opiate” by the tabloid press — was told she would be allowed to continue to practice if she met certain conditions.
The decision caused public outrage, but she opted to retire on a substantial NHS pension shortly after the findings, having never faced any charges.
Police said of the new investigation, “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… This is a highly complex and emotive case that some family members have been living with for more than 30 years, and I would like to thank them for their continuing patience and understanding during this process.”
The new investigation will be carried out primarily by Kent police but will involve officers from all across the country. Relatives have been told it may take up to nine months.