BBC reveals new inquests into Gosport hospital deaths

FOUR new inquests will be held into the deaths of patients who died at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital that is currently being investigated over the care of hundreds of patients.

According to a report today, Thursday, July 15, on the BBC website’s Local News page, the Hampshire coroner will investigate the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Smith, Eva Page and Clifford Houghton at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

An inquiry found 456 patients died after being given opiates at the hospital between 1987 and 2001, but no charges have ever been brought.

‘Disregard for human life’

Police began a fresh inquiry in 2019. Officers have been reviewing documents, including 15,000 death certificates and 700 patient records, after the Gosport Independent Review Panel found there was a “disregard for human life” at the hospital.

Coroner-led inquests in 2009 found drugs administered at the hospital contributed to five deaths.

The new inquests will examine:

  • Clifford Houghton, 71, who died after he was admitted to the hospital in February 1994 for a period of respite. The GIRP report concluded he was given opioids without appropriate clinical indication.
  • Dulcie Middleton, 86, who died in September 2001, three months after she was admitted for rehabilitation following a stroke. Her family have said her treatment was “neglectful and inhumane”.
  • Eva Page, 88, who died in March 1998. The GIRP report concluded her death was a case of opioid usage without appropriate clinical indication.
  • Horace Smith, 73, who died in April 1999 after his condition was said to be improving, although he was subsequently prescribed diamorphine.

Solicitor Emma Jones, who represents some of the families, said she had also requested inquests for Arthur Cunningham and Gladys Richards, who both died in 1998.

The BBC reported that the lawyer would like to see a Hillsborough-style inquest examining all of the deaths together and held before a judge and jury, rather than a coroner.

She added: “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 [under the European Convention of Human Rights] which gives much greater powers to look at the individuals and institutions involved.”

Dr Jane Barton, who oversaw the practice of prescribing painkillers on the wards at the hospital, was disciplined by the General Medical Council in 2010 for serious professional misconduct, but she was not struck off and retired soon afterwards.

The doctor has previously said she was doing her best in an inadequately resourced part of the health service. She also said she was under unreasonable and increasing pressure, and patients were too unwell for rehabilitation.

For full BBC report and more photographs, see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-57848431

BELOW: The families of Cliff Houghton, Dulcie Middleton, Arthur Cunningham and Eva Page were among those to call for new inquests. Family photographs carried on the BBC website