Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Police force ordered to investigate corruption complaints over probe into hundreds of deaths

Police, first investigating deaths at a scandal-stricken hospital, have been ordered to conduct an investigation into corruption complaints as a new investigation into four deaths more than 20 years ago opens.

The Serious Crime Directorate of Kent and Essex is examining 15,000 death certificates as part of an investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in the 1990s.

The investigation began in Hampshire after an investigation found that the lives of hundreds of patients were shortened by the use of opioids.

A brief hearing was held in Portsmouth Coroner’s Court on Thursday to open an investigation into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Smith, Eva Page and Clifford Houghton, who date from the late 1990s at their families’ request.

At the hearing, it emerged that the Independent Bureau of Police Conduct (IOPC) had been contacted by relatives after the Hampshire Constabulary, which first investigated the hospital, refused to investigate allegations of violence of corruption.

An IOPC spokesman confirmed that it had asked the Hampshire Force to re-examine the allegations and conduct a complaint process.

David Wilson, Ms. Middleton’s nephew, asked the coroner if the investigations should be postponed pending investigations by other agencies including the IOPC.

Coroner Chris Wilkinson responded that the police investigation was the only ongoing investigation and that the investigation could resume once it was completed.

The IOPC spokesman said: “From December 2020 to March 2021, several requests for review were received from 12 complainants regarding allegations of corruption in connection with the Hampshire Constabulary’s criminal investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1987 and 2001.

The reviews contradicted the outcome of the troop handling of complaints based on the 2018 Gosport Independent Panel (GIP) report on the deaths.

“The police found that there were no other conduct or criminal charges that required investigation.

“After the reviews, we confirmed each case on the grounds that the results presented by the troops were not appropriate and proportionate.

“This was mainly due to the complainants not being provided with sufficient reasoning and relevant information to understand how decisions were made.

“We have now told the police that a complaint investigation is required and that they should provide the complainants with sufficient information to explain what investigations have been carried out and how they reached their conclusions.

“If there are matters during this process that have not been previously addressed, the Hampshire Constabulary should examine those matters appropriately and seek to resolve them.

“After completing this work, the complainants will be granted a new right of review vis-à-vis the IOPC.”

A Hampshire police spokesman said: “We just got a response from the IOPC. It is clear that we need to explain our decisions better.

“You asked us to clarify our reasoning and to provide more information to the complainants. That is our intention. “

The new investigation will look into the death of 71-year-old Mr Houghton after he was hospitalized for respite in February 1994.

He died the day he was given two doses of diamorphine for “deterioration” and the 2018 Review Panel concluded that he was given opioids for no clinical indication.

His stepdaughter Pamela Byrne sees the suspicion that her stepfather died of a “violent or unnatural death”.

Ms. Middleton died in September 2001 at the age of 86, three months after being hospitalized for rehabilitation after suffering from a stroke.

Her nephew David Wilson and daughter Marjorie Bulbeck say Ms. Middleton’s treatment in the hospital was “negligent and inhumane, she was not helped with food, became dehydrated and she was denied basic care”.

Ms. Page, 88, died in March 1998 and the GIP report concluded that her death was a case of opioid use without an appropriate clinical indication.

Mr Smith, 73, died in April 1999 after his condition improved, although he was later prescribed diamorphine.

Emma Jones, partner at Leigh Day who represents the families, said, “We hope this is the beginning of a full, honest, open and thorough investigation into what has happened to people at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.”

More than 450 people were hospitalized with their lives shortened, while another 200 were “likely” given similar opioids between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification, according to the 2018 GIP report.

The report states that there is “a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening the lives of large numbers of patients” in the hospital.

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