A written statement will be delivered to the House of Commons today by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt. The Surrey South West MP's announcement follows years of campaigning from the relatives of those who died at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire during the 1990s.
It's believed the inquiry has been commissioned by the care minister, Norman Lamb MP, who has asked the former Bishop of Liverpool to investigate after an audit on the number of deaths at the hospital more than fifteen years ago.
Relatives of many who died believe they were prescribed painkillers, including morphine and other powerful drugs, to shorten their lives, even if they were not in pain. Local MP, Caroline Dinenage, has joined calls for more information about what happened at the hospital.
In 2003 a report was published into the medical regime at the hospital. It had been commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer after concerns were first raised in 1998. It was coordinated by Professor Richard Baker from the University of Leicester.
His report concluded that there was an almost routine use of opiates and evidence of the practice had been found from as early as 1998. He said it shortened the lives of some patients - a small number of who would have been discharged from the hospital alive. He made a number of recommendations:
These included that investigations into the deaths of individual patients should continue. He also asked for the rota patterns of doctors working at the hospital at the time should be examined to explore the pattern of deaths.
He also said hospital teams who care for patients at the end of the lives should have explicit policies on the use of opiate medication and that there should be national guidelines to help develop local policies.