An independent investigation has started into concerns about the past care and subsequent deaths of older people at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire
The review was announced in July by care minister Norman Lamb, following years of campaigning by the relatives of people resident at the hospital from the 1980s through to the early 2000s.
“Many families have on-going concerns about the way their relatives were treated and how their complaints have been handled”
Last year, the Department of Health published a clinical audit of care carried out back in 2003 by Leicester University academic Professor Richard Baker, which covered the period 1988-2000.
The report concluded that “a practice of almost routine use of opiates before death” had been followed in the care of patients at Gosport hospital.
However, the families say unanswered questions remain about the historic care of their relatives, the circumstances surrounding their treatment and death, and the slow progress of previous investigations into events at the hospital.
The terms of reference for the new investigation and some of the panel members who will lead the Gosport Independent Panel have been confirmed and published in parliament today.
Bishop James Jones, who previously chaired the Hillsborough Independent Panel, will chair the investigation, as previously announced in July.
Four additional members of the panel have now been appointed.
They are geriatric medicine specialist Dr Colin Currie, investigative journalist David Hencke, former Scotland Yard commander Duncan Jarrett, and pathology and medical records expert Dr Bill Kirkup – currently also leading an investigation into maternity deaths at University Hospitals of Morecombe Bay Foundation Trust.
Announcing the start of the investigation, the Department of Health said Bishop Jones had “worked hard” to ensure the views of the affected families have been reflected in the terms of reference.
The panel is now calling on anyone who wishes to raise any concerns about their treatment, or that of their relatives, at Gosport during this period, to contact them.
The DH added that the government had committed to maximum public disclosure of documentation relating to the events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.
Bishop Jones said: “Many families have on-going concerns about the way their relatives were treated and how their complaints have been handled.
“I want to help provide clarity and understanding for the families,” he said. “By working with them to set and deliver the terms of reference with a panel of experts from different fields, I believe I can achieve this.
“Independence and integrity will be the hallmarks of the panel’s work,” he added.
Mr Lamb said: “The events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital have caused immense distress to the families of the patients who died. I have confidence that this independent panel will help answer the many questions they have.”
Gosport War Memorial Hospital is currently run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. It has a 20-bed GP ward and 32 beds for older people’s mental health.