Police investigation announced into Gosport War Memorial hospital deaths

Police will press ahead with a full criminal investigation into the deaths of hundreds of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire, it's been announced today.

At a meeting on Tuesday (30 April), Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing provided an update to the relatives of those who died.

He said: ‘The families of those affected by the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital are at the heart of everything we do, and I hope the news that we will now be carrying out a full investigation is of some comfort to them.

‘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.

‘There have been three previous police investigations into deaths at the hospital. It was therefore important for us to carry out an initial assessment of the materials obtained by the Gosport Independent Panel to establish if it contained sufficient new information that has not already been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service.'

This is the fourth such investigation into the deaths, following the failure of the previous three.

  • WATCH: Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing

Records examined by the Gosport Independent Panel showed 456 patients had their lives shortened between 1989 and 2000 through the medically unjustified administration of opioids.

An investigation in 2018 found that the "institutionalised regime" of prescribing the drugs without medical justification "followed a clear pattern over time", and continued despite concerns being raised by nurses between 1991 and 1992.

But the report adds at least another 200 patients "probably" also had their lives cut short, when missing records are taken into account.

Families of the victims have been fighting for more than 20 years in the hope an investigation may bring about criminal charges.

  • WATCH: Families react to the new investigation

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

Dr Jane Barton Credit: PA

Timeline of events in the Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal:

  • August 1998 - Gladys Richards dies in Gosport War Memorial Hospital after going in for rehab following a hip operation. Her family report concerns about her treatment to the police and the coroner.

  • 2001 - In the three years after Mrs Richards' family came forward, three more went to police and two more case were reported to the NHS ombudsman.

  • July 2002 - The Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) criticised Portsmouth Healthcare NHS Trust, which ran the hospital, for excessive use of pain relief and sedative drugs.

  • February 2005 - Hampshire Police detectives pass files of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about the deaths of elderly patients.

  • December 2006 - Hampshire Police announces no-one would face prosecution over the deaths after a four-year inquiry. The CPS says that negligence could not be proven to a criminal standard and that there was no realistic prospect of conviction of healthcare staff.

  • April 2009 - An inquest jury rules drugs given to five elderly people at the hospital contributed to their deaths.

  • January 2010 - The General Medical Council finds Dr Jane Barton guilty of serious professional misconduct. A panel found she made a catalogue of failings, including issuing drugs which were "excessive, inappropriate and potentially hazardous". She was not struck off.

  • March - Dr Barton retires from medical practice.

  • August - The CPS announces no criminal charges will be brought against Dr Barton after finding insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter in 10 key cases.

  • April 2013 - A coroner rules that medication given to Mrs Richards contributed "more than insignificantly" to her death.

  • July 2014 - An independent investigation into more than 90 deaths at the hospital is launched by health minister Norman Lamb.

  • June 20 2018 - The inquiry is published.

  • April 30 2019 - Police announce full criminal investigation.

Police will now meet with families on a one-to-one basis and invite them to give statements on their experience with the hospital.

  • WATCH: Caroline Dinenage MP Gosport, Con and Norman Lamb MP Health Minister 2012-2015, Lib Dem welcome the new investigation