A police force has been ordered to conduct an investigation into its ‘inadequate’ response to corruption complaints during the investigation into the deaths of four patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has ordered Hampshire Constabulary to open a new investigation after it received 12 complaints about corruption charges.
The complaints relate to the police criminal investigation into the deaths of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire between 1987 and 2001.
It comes as a brief hearing has been held today in Portsmouth’s Coroner’s Court to open investigations into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Smith, Eva Page and Clifford Houghton, who died at the scandal-stricken hospital, at the request of their family.
An independent police investigation was launched at Hampshire Hospital after an investigation found hundreds of patients’ lives had been shortened by the use of opioids.
Hampshire Constabulary has been ordered to conduct an inquiry into its ‘inadequate’ response to corruption complaints during the investigation into the deaths of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire between 1987 and 2001
The Kent and Essex Serious Directorate, which is leading the investigation, codenamed Operation Magenta, confirmed earlier this year that agents are viewing millions of pages of documents, including 15,000 death certificates and 700 patient records.
During the hearing, it emerged that family members had contacted the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) after the Hampshire Constabulary, which first surveyed the hospital, refused to investigate allegations against the power of corruption.
An IOPC spokesperson confirmed that it had asked Hampshire’s forces to reconsider the allegations and to conduct a grievance procedure.
David Wilson, Ms. Middleton’s cousin, asked the coroner whether the investigations should be postponed until the completion of investigations by other agencies, including the IOPC.
Coroner Chris Wilkinson replied that the police investigation is the only ongoing investigation and that the inquest could resume when it is completed.
The IOPC spokesperson said: ‘From December 2020 to March 2021, several requests for assessments have been received from 12 complainants regarding corruption charges related to the Hampshire Constabulary criminal investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1987 and 2001. .
“The assessments contradicted the outcome of the police’s handling of complaints arising from the Gosport Independent Panel (GIP) report on the deaths, released in 2018.
“Police have determined that there were no additional conduct issues or criminal charges to be investigated.
“Following the assessments, we upheld each case on the grounds that the results of the police were not reasonable and proportionate.
‘This was mainly due to the fact that the complainants were not provided with sufficient substantiation and relevant information to understand how the decisions had been reached.
“We have now told the police that a complaint investigation is needed and that they must provide the complainants with sufficient information to explain what investigations have been conducted and how they arrived at their conclusions.
“During this process, if there are issues that have not been addressed before, Hampshire Constabulary should consider and attempt to resolve these issues appropriately.
“After the completion of this work, the complainants will receive a new right of review from the IOPC.”
A Hampshire police spokesperson said: ‘We have just received a response from the IOPC. Obviously, we need to explain our decisions better.
In 2010, Dr. Jane Barton, who oversaw the practice of prescribing pain medications in hospital wards, was disciplined by the General Medical Council for serious professional misconduct
“They have asked us to explain our rationale more clearly and to share more information with the complainants. Our intention is to do that.’
The new investigations will concern the death of 71-year-old Mr Houghton after he was hospitalized in February 1994 for a period of respite.
He died the day he received two doses of diamorphine due to ‘deterioration’, and the 2018 review panel concluded that he was receiving opioids with no appropriate clinical indication.
His stepdaughter Pamela Byrne believes there is reason to suspect that her stepfather died a ‘violent or unnatural death’.
Ms Middleton died in September 2001 at the age of 86, three months after being admitted to hospital for rehabilitation after a stroke.
Her cousin David Wilson and daughter Marjorie Bulbeck say Ms Middleton’s treatment at the hospital was “negligible and inhumane, she was not helped with food and became dehydrated and basic nursing denied”.
Ms Page, 88, died in March 1998 and the GIP report concluded that her death was a case of opioid use with no appropriate clinical indication.
Mr Smith, 73, died in April 1999 after his condition improved, although he was subsequently prescribed diamorphine.
Emma Jones, partner at Leigh Day, who represents the families, said: ‘We hope this will be the start of a full, honest, open and thorough investigation into what happened to individuals at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.’
The lives of more than 450 people were shortened in the hospital, while another 200 were “probably” given opioids in the same way between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification, according to the GIP report released in 2018.
The report said there was “contempt for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of a large number of patients” at the hospital.
In 2010, Dr Jane Barton, who oversaw the practice of prescribing painkillers in the hospital’s wards, was disciplined by the General Medical Council for serious professional misconduct, but was not discharged and later retired.
She has previously said she was doing her best in a part of the health service that was under-resourced.
A 2018 report by the Gosport Independent Panel (GIP) led by the former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones concluded that the lives of more than 450 people had been shortened due to the routine practice of prescribing and administering opioids up to the year 2000 by at least at least another 200 patients were similarly affected.