Drug deaths hospital doctor ‘did her best’

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Media captionFormer Gosport hospital doctor Jane Barton did her “best for her patients”, her husband says.

The doctor who oversaw the practice of prescribing powerful painkillers at Gosport War Memorial Hospital was working in a “very inadequately resourced part of the health service”.

More than 450 patients died after being given the drugs inappropriately, a report concluded last week.

A statement read out on behalf of Dr Jane Barton said she was a “doctor doing the best for her patients”.

Relatives described the statement as “worthless” and a “waste of time”.

Dr Barton appeared outside her Gosport home where the statement was read by her husband, Tim Barton.

He said: “Jane would like to thank her family, friends, colleagues, former patients and the many others for their continued support and loyalty through this protracted inquiry.

“She has always maintained she was a hardworking, dedicated doctor – doing the best for her patients in a very inadequately resourced part of the health service.

“We ask that our privacy is respected at this difficult time and she will be making no further comments.”

Mr Barton told reporters to direct further inquiries to the Medical Defence Union, which is representing Dr Barton.

Image copyright BBC/PA/Reeves family
Image caption Inquests into the deaths of 10 patients, six of whom are pictured, were held in 2009

Bridget Devine-Reeves, whose grandmother Elsie Reeves died at the hospital, told the BBC: “The panel found there was a disregard for human life and it is extraordinary that she should have the audacity to say she was doing the best for patients – the statement given is worthless.”

Anne Farthing’s stepfather-in-law, Arthur ‘Brian’ Cunningham, also died at the hospital. He had been admitted with bed sores but died after being given powerful opiates and sedatives.

She said: “They have to make some statement so obviously they’re going to come up with something that’s just a front, quite frankly.

“It’s just a waste of space and a waste of time.”

The independent panel’s report found there was an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering “dangerous” amounts of a medication not clinically justified at the hospital from 1989 to 2000.

It said taking into account missing records, a further 200 patients may have also had their lives shortened.

‘Sorry for distress’

The findings have led to calls for an inquiry from families.

Hampshire Constabulary, which was criticised in the report for the way it handled three previous investigations into the deaths of 92 patients which failed to lead to any prosecutions, is to hand over any new inquiry to another force.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney apologised for the force’s “part in the distress caused to families for so many years”.

So far, the only person to face disciplinary action has been Dr Barton, who was found guilty of failings in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999.

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

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Media captionGosport hospital: Families ‘grossly let down’ by authorities

The Gosport Independent Panel’s report found whistleblowers and families were ignored as they attempted to raise concerns about the administration of medication on the wards, which was overseen by Dr Barton.

The report said an “awareness” that the deaths “might be due to ‘another Shipman'” had “cast a shadow over how concerns at the hospital were viewed”.

GP Harold Shipman was jailed for life in 2000 for murdering 15 patients between 1995 and 1998.

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