Monday, 25 May 2009

'We demand justice': The families at the heart of Gosport's hospital scandal


Nearly 100 deaths at a hospital in Gosport have provoked an outcry from many of the patients' families, who believe the cases are suspicious. Official investigations have established little. The Independent on Sunday was the first to make arguments for a public inquiry and continues to pressurise the authorities to find out what really happened. Beyond the headlines, the relatives are struggling to uncover the whole truth behind their parents' final days... Nina Lakhani hears their stories

In 1991, nurses working night shifts at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire were troubled. Over the previous few months, the number of elderly patients dying under their care had been mounting. Two nurses at the community hospital (which treats elderly patients in need of rehabilitation or sometimes terminal care, in collaboration with GPs) raised the alarm to senior hospital staff and the Royal College of Nursing. They believed the deaths started after patients were given diamorphine (a powerful painkiller) via a syringe driver (which delivers drugs via a tube and needle, and is traditionally used for very sick patients who need constant medication but find it difficult to swallow tablets). Giving these drugs, while sometimes necessary for chronic pain, can cause serious side-effects, such as difficulty with breathing. These are more likely to occur in those patients not in pain: breathing can stop altogether.

Letters were written, internal meetings were held, but eventually the matter was closed by the hospital trust. A GP attached to Gosport, Dr Jane Barton, was responsible for prescribing drugs to many of the elderly patients. She continued working in the rehabilitation and terminal care wards.

The death at the hospital of 91-year-old Gladys Richards in 1998 triggered the first NHS, and two police, investigations after her daughter, Gillian Mackenzie, refused to accept she had died from natural causes. The police investigations were later found to have been incompetent and led to a third – lasting four years – into at least 92 deaths at the hospital. Thirteen were categorised as the "most serious" by an eminent team of medical experts led by Professor Robert ' Forrest, the forensic toxicologist who gave evidence at the Harold Shipman trial, but no charges were brought.

Full article here

Also from The Independent: NHS 'loses' thousands of medical records

The personal medical records of tens of thousands of people have been lost by the NHS in a series of grave data security leaks. Between January and April this year, 140 security breaches were reported within the NHS – more than the total number from inside central Government and all local authorities combined.