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Four inquests to be held into death of elderly patients at hospital

An independent police probe into the Hampshire hospital began after an inquiry found that hundreds of patients had their lives shortened.

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A general view of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire (Chris Ison/PA)

A general view of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire (Chris Ison/PA)

A general view of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire (Chris Ison/PA)

Permission has been granted for inquests to be held into the deaths of four patients who died at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, which is being investigated over the care of hundreds of patients.

An independent police probe was launched into the Hampshire hospital after an inquiry found that hundreds of patients had their lives shortened through the use of opioids.

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Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct’ in 2010 over the care she gave at Gosport War Memorial Hospital but was not struck off (Chris Ison/PA)

Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct’ in 2010 over the care she gave at Gosport War Memorial Hospital but was not struck off (Chris Ison/PA)

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Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct’ in 2010 over the care she gave at Gosport War Memorial Hospital but was not struck off (Chris Ison/PA)

The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, which is managing the investigation, codenamed Operation Magenta, confirmed earlier this year that officers are reviewing millions of pages of documents including 15,000 death certificates and 700 patient records.

Now, the Hampshire coroner has approved the requests for inquests to be held into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Reuben David Smith, Eva Isabel Page and Clifford Houghton, which date back to the late 1990s.

Leigh Day partner Emma Jones has also written to the Attorney General to ask for fresh inquests into the deaths of Arthur Cunningham who died aged 79 in August 1998 and Gladys Richards who died the same month.

The six families are hoping that others will join them in their call for a Hillsborough-style inquest that would examine all of the deaths together and be held before a judge and jury, rather than a coroner.

The families have been fighting for years for answers Leigh Day partner Emma Jones

They want an inquest which considers Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to life, which would have a much wider scope than a standard inquest to look at the role of all individuals and institutions involved in the deaths of patients at the hospital.

Ms Jones said: “The families have been fighting for years for answers and we are hopeful that the coronial process will provide them with these answers.

“My clients believe that the only way to achieve a thorough investigation of what happened is to conduct a judge-led Article 2 inquest which gives much greater powers to look at the individuals and institutions involved.”

Ms Jones said that a total of 11 inquests have been carried out in relation to more than 800 death certificates completed by Dr Barton who was found guilty of “serious professional misconduct” in 2010, but was not struck off.

A report by the Gosport Independent Panel (GIP) led by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones in 2018 concluded that the lives of more than 450 people had been shortened because of the routine practice of prescribing and administering opioids until the year 2000 with at least another 200 patients similarly affected.

The new inquests will include an examination of the death of 71-year-old Clifford Houghton after he was admitted to the hospital in February 1994 for a period of respite and the GIP concluded he was given opioids without appropriate clinical indication.

Dulcie Middleton died aged 86 in September, 2001, three months after she was admitted to Gosport hospital for rehabilitation following a stroke. Her nephew and daughter, David Wilson and Marjorie Bulbeck, say her treatment was “neglectful and inhumane”.

Eva Page, 88, died in March 1998 and the GIP report concluded her death was a case of opioid usage without appropriate clinical indication.

Horace Smith, 73, died in April 1999 after his condition was said to be improving, although he was subsequently prescribed diamorphine.

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