A lack of justice for the death of more than 450 patients who lost their lives at Gosport War Memorial Hospital has compounded misery for the patients’ families, states a senior solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors.
BBC Panorama Investigates aired a report on 21st January 2019 on the tragic events that developed when Dr Jane Barton, a GP at the centre of the scandal, prescribed strong opioid painkillers to elderly patients at the South Coast hospital.
Ian Clifton, Medical Negligence Solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors, believes the independent inquiry that found an unacceptable volume of patient deaths is a terrible insight into the current state of the National Health Service.
Ian said: “Clearly, any individual avoidable death in hospital is tragic..
“For the family of the patient, the pain of losing their loved one is somehow exacerbated by the notion that it could and should have been avoided.”
Ian believes that there is a bigger and more unnerving picture that has come to light in the wake of the decision of the inquiry.
The Medical Negligence Solicitor continued: “In the case of this hospital, it is the sheer scale of the failings, and the apparently systematic prescription of such dangerous levels of strong opioid painkillers to these patients, that is quite difficult to fathom.”
Hampshire Constabulary had previously investigated the hospital three times before the inquiry. However, no charges were ever brought..
Speaking to BBC Panorama, former Assistant Chief Constable Steve Watts, the officer who led the third and largest investigation into 94 of the deaths, said despite this he believed that the evidence was enough to take the case to court.
He said: “I think it’s strong enough now, I think it was strong enough then, and I think there was an overriding public interest in doing so.”
During the investigations, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) looked into potential manslaughter and murder charges in relation to Dr Barton and a small number of her staff who administered the drug but did not see that there was a strong enough case to secure convictions.
Echoing the sentiment of Chief Constable Watts, Ian believes that the lack of accountability thus far has only compounded the grieving families’ distress.
Ian concluded: “For the families of over 450 patients, their loss has been compounded not only by the knowledge that their lives were cut short, but by the fact that no party has been brought to justice to date.”