Ian Sandford, whose mother died in Gosport hospital, attended a meeting between police and relatives
Ian Sandford, whose mother died in Gosport hospital, attended a meeting between police and relatives

A new criminal investigation is to take place into the deaths of hundreds of patients who were given “dangerous” levels of painkillers at a hospital.

An inquiry found 456 patients died after being given opiate drugs at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1989 and 2000.

A review has since been carried out by Kent and Essex Police to assess if there was “sufficient new evidence”.

Relatives have been told a “full investigation” will begin.

Three previous investigations into 92 of the deaths by Hampshire Constabulary resulted in no charges being brought.

Timeline: Concerns were first raised about the treatment of patients in 1998

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing, head of serious crime at Kent and Essex Police, met relatives at a meeting in Fareham.

He said he hoped the investigation would be “some comfort” to them.

He said: “This investigation is not about numbers, it is about people – specifically those who died at the hospital and the loved ones they have left behind.

“This is a highly complex and emotive case that some family members have been living with for more than 30 years, and I would like to thank them for their continuing patience and understanding during this process.”

He said police would be meeting families individually to collect statements on their relatives’ experiences of the hospital.

Bridget Reeves
Bridget Reeves has been campaigning for justice for relatives of those who died in the hospital

In a statement read on behalf of the families, Bridget Reeves, whose 88-year-old grandmother Elsie Devine died in the hospital in 1999, said there had a been a “cover-up culture” surrounding previous investigations.

She said: “We challenged and we challenged when we saw the corrupt evidence that so-called experts had submitted but the CPS slammed the door shut in our faces.

“This immoral disaster was perpetuated by a club culture … officials protected each other.

“Our loved ones were killed and our lives destroyed.”

Ian Sandford, whose mother also died in Gosport, added: “Frustration doesn’t even come near. They should have sorted this out a long time ago.

“All I want to hear is a good result.”

Peta Birmingham
Peta Birmingham’s grandmother Gladys Richards died in Gosport

Peta Birmingham, whose grandmother Gladys Richards died, said her family were “as pleased as we can be” about the new investigation.

She said: “After all this time you can understand why the families are distrustful of the process, having already endured three police investigations. We hope it’ll be different and it will reach its rightful conclusion.”

Families were told the process would take up to nine months to decide whether charges would be brought.

Dr Jane Barton during the inquests in 2009 into the deaths of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital
Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2010 but no prosecutions were brought

The Gosport Independent Review Panel report, published in June 2018, found there was a “disregard for human life” at the hospital.

It also found an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering amounts of opiate medication that were not clinically justified.

The report said the quality of previous police investigations had been “consistently poor”.

It 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 Jane Barton.

Dr Barton retired after being found guilty by a medical panel of failings in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999.