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Further inquests ordered into hospital deaths

By Connor Steel

THE HIGH COURT have officially ordered that new inquests must be held into the deaths of three patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital; the update being released on Wednesday afternoon (June 28) and follows a recent announcement that the independent police inquiry is currently interviewing 19 suspects under caution.

It means that the deaths of Gladys Richards, Arthur Cunningham, and Robert Wilson will be re-examined by officials following a family-led campaign. Previous inquests were held in early 2009 for both Mr Cunningham and Mr Wilson whilst the process for Ms Richards was undertaken four years later in 2013 according to BBC.

But the latest decision marks another chapter in an ongoing legal process centred around the hospital; which has be running in different capacities since the turn of the century. After multiple calls from bereaved families, ex-health minister Norman Lamb set up the Gosport Independent Panel in 2014 led by Bishop James Jones.

The large scale investigation cost £14 million and took four years to complete; its full report published in late June 2018. It concluded that the lives of 456 people were shortened due to a “routine practice of prescribing and administering opioids”; whilst another two hundred patients were potentially affected from 1989 to 2001.

Their conclusions prompted a new ‘police investigation’ led by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate with a codename of “Operation Magenta”. They are currently examining medical records of over 750 patients and it has been previously reported that the long process involves over eight thousand individual documents.

Three previous investigations have been undertaken by Hampshire Constabulary, but resulted in no criminal prosecutions; the single person to face any disciplinary action being Dr Jane Barton. She was found guilty of “failings in her care” of twelve patients between 1996 and 1999; but was not struck off and retired afterwards.

These 3 inquests join those of Clifford Houghton, Dulcie Middleton, Eva Page and Horace Smith; which were announced in 2021 and reported in the Globe at that time. There have also been calls for a public inquiry into events at the War Memorial Hospital; similar to that undertaken regarding the ‘Hillsborough stadium tragedy‘.

Readers are encouraged to visit media sites such as BBC NewsSky News and ITV News for all developing updates on this story, whilst the full 2018 independent panel report can be read as a PDF file on this weblink.

PICTURED BY ALAMY (RTKK7T): Front façade and entrance to Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where 456 were found to have died “prematurely” due to “opioid practices” between 1989 and 2001 after a panel report.