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  1. ITV Report

Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal 'probably repeated elsewhere'

The Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal that saw at least 450 people have their lives shortened, has probably been repeated at other institutions, a top health safety data specialist has said.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman, head of the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio Four "it's likely" that similar events were happening in other hospitals.

In an interview ITV News Professor Jarman said he has signed another "ten mortality alerts," which have been sent to hospitals.

The relatives of those who died have called for prosecutions and are fundraising for a legal challenge.

The role of the Dr Foster Unit is to analyse mortality rate data and provide alerts to the Department of Health for investigation, but Professor Jarman said information produced by the unit was not properly assessed.

He continued that there is a culture of denial in the NHS and condemned the way whistleblowers are treated.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman has condemned the way NHS whistleblowers are treated. Credit: ITV News

"We really need an independent system to look at people who whistleblow," Prof Jarman said.

"One that is completely independent of the NHS" and which would see whistleblowers "protected, rather than being fired, gagged and blacklisted".

He added that "at least a third" of NHS staff would have "fears if they were to whistleblow, that they would have problems whistleblowing".

At least 450 people had their lives shortened at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Credit: PA

Responding to Professor Jarman's remarks, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was "being a little bit unfair on the NHS today."

He claimed the fear of whistleblowing among NHS staff "is changing but it has got a long way to go" and said that in order to avoid a repeat of the Gosport scandal the "blame" culture in the NHS had to change.

Mr Hunt said: "The basic problem is that if you are a doctor or a nurse and you see something going wrong - even if you are perhaps responsible for a mistake yourself - the most important thing, the thing that families want if they are bereaved or if they have a tragedy, is to know that the NHS isn't going to make that mistake again.

"We make it much too hard for doctors and nurses to do that - they are worried that there will be litigation, they will go up in front of the GMC or NMC, the reputation of their unit - in some places they are worried they might get fired, so we do have to tackle that blame culture and turn that into a learning culture."

A damning report revealed that more than 450 people had their lives shortened after being prescribed powerful painkillers at the Hampshire hospital.

An additional 200 patients were "probably" similarly given opioids between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification, according to the report published on Wednesday.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a 'blame' culture in the NHS has to change. Credit: PA

Mr Hunt told Radio 4's Today programme: "In an organisation of 1.4 million people, unfortunately you are going to get malpractice, you are going to get some people who do the wrong thing.

"You can never say that that will be totally eliminated but I do think we would find out about that much, much sooner these days with all the things we have put in place."

The Gosport inquiry, led by the former bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, found that whistleblowers and families were ignored as they attempted to raise concerns about the administration of opioids at the hospital.

Nursing staff first raised concerns nearly 30 years ago but their fears were "silenced" by management, it revealed.

Following the release of the report, relatives of elderly patients who died at the hospital branded the findings "chilling" and called for criminal prosecutions to be brought.

The Gosport panel found that, over a 12-year period as clinical assistant, Dr Jane Barton was "responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards".

Dr Jane Barton is accused of being 'responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards'. Credit: PA

The perception that Dr Barton might be a "lone wolf" operating alone "rapidly took root", the report said.

Police did not pursue a "wider investigation" into what was going on at the hospital and instead focused on the actions of Dr Barton.

Bridget Reeves, the granddaughter of 88-year-old Elsie Devine, said in a statement on behalf of the families: "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."