Gosport Hospital: More than 450 people had lives shortened by opioid handouts

Families of those who died want criminal charges brought

A damning culture of failure across the United Kingdom health system was revealed Wednesday after an inquiry found that the lives of more than 450 people were cut short after staff administered powerful sedatives without regard for patient safety.

Between 1988 and 2000, her actions were said to have exhibited a "disregard for human life" that the inquiry found had likely led to an additional 200 patients being administered with opioids without any medical need.

The inquiry found: 'In total, the panel found evidence of opioid usage without appropriate clinical indication in 456 patients - that is, in 40% of the records that contained sufficient information.

The report released on Wednesday found that a clinical assistant, Dr Jane Barton, was "responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards" over a 12-year period.

It appears to have started in the late 1980s: a loose regime of medics and nurses habitually dosing mainly elderly patients with opioids, the innocuous instruction on their notes: "Please make comfortable".

Dr Jane Barton is the retired GP at the heart of the Gosport scandal, who signed off the medical prescriptions that potentially contributed to the early deaths of hundreds of former patients. The review, by Richard Baker of the University of Leicester, was commissioned in 2003 but the department of health refused to publish it until a decade later, reports The Guardian. She described as "brusque, unfriendly and indifferent" by some relatives, according to the report.

But no prosecutions were brought and she was not struck off the medical register, choosing to retire after the findings.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs that the police will "carefully examine" the report before determining whether charges should be brought, and suggested that Hampshire Police should bring in another force after nothing came of a previous investigation into what went on at the hospital.

The report found there was a "disregard for human life" of a large number of patients from 1989 to 2000.

Hospital management, healthcare organisations, Hampshire Police, local politicians, the coronial system, the Crown Prosecution Service, the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council "all failed to act in ways that would have better protected patients and relatives", the Gosport Independent Panel added.

Bishop Jones, who also headed the Hillsborough inquiry, said: "It's not for the panel to ascribe criminal or civil liability".

There was an "institutionalised regime" of prescribing and administering "dangerous" amounts of a medication not clinically justified at the Hampshire hospital, the report said.

Conservative MP for Gosport Caroline Dinenage highlighted the failures by authorities to investigate despite concerns being raised by relatives who have led this cause for two decades.

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