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Gosport hospital deaths: Families await police review

Relatives of hundreds of patients who died after being given painkillers at a hospital are due to hear if a new criminal investigation will take place.

An inquiry that ended last summer found more than 450 patients died after they were given “dangerous” levels of the drugs at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

A review of evidence has been carried out by Kent and Essex Police over the past six months.

The findings will be shown to relatives at a meeting in Fareham later.

The review led by Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing, head of serious crime at Kent and Essex Police, began in September to “assess what is available to support any further action”.

‘Disregard for human life’

In a letter to relatives before it began, he said there was an “unprecedented” amount of material to assess from previous police investigations and the panel’s report.

He said the potential outcomes included further investigation being required to develop a case for consideration for prosecution.

Other potential outcomes included more work being needed due to gaps in material, recommendations being made to other stakeholders, or no further police action.

The Gosport Independent Review Panel report found there was a “disregard for human life” of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000.

Three previous investigations into 92 of the deaths by Hampshire Constabulary resulted in no charges being brought.

Maggie Cheetham said she wanted “closure” for her aunt Ethel Thurston who died in 1999 aged 78 after being admitted to the hospital following a fall.

“All she needed was some tender loving care – she did not deserve to die.

“I want to know why she was given the cocktail of drugs, and I want someone held to account for killing her,” she said.

The Gosport Independent Panel found there was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering amounts of opiate medication not clinically justified.

It said the quality of previous police investigations had been “consistently poor”.

It found whistleblowers and families were ignored as they attempted to raise concerns about the administration of medication on the wards, which was overseen by Dr Jane Barton.

Dr Barton retired after being found guilty by a medical panel of failings in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999.

Hampshire Constabulary said, when the inquiry report was issued last June, it would “step back” from any future police investigations because relatives’ confidence in the force had been “damaged”.

But earlier this year, former Assistant Chief Constable Steve Watts, who led the third and largest previous investigation, into 94 deaths, told the BBC he believed there was enough evidence to take the case to court.

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