The RCN’s General Secretary Janet Davies has called for 'a culture of candour' in the NHS, after a review of practices at Gosport War Memorial Hospital found that up to 650 patients may have had their lives shortened. The review focussed on the work of a GP attached to the hospital from 1988-2000, Dr Jane Barton, who had routinely prescribed opiates with 'little evidence' of the steps usually recommended in primary care.
‘This report makes for very sober reading for everybody involved in the care of patients,’ said Ms Davies. ‘Nursing as a profession must work hard to seek out lessons from Gosport and we expect that approach to be shared by regulators and the health and care system.’
The report said that senior nurses had raised the alarm as early as 1988, but following a staff meeting in 1991 had had their concerns dismissed by hospital management, thus losing the opportunity to save patient lives. Praising ‘the bravery shown by the nurses who raised concerns,’ Ms Davies said: 'It highlights how difficult it can be for nursing staff to challenge the decisions taken by others.'
Dr Barton retired in 2010 after a General Medical Council investigation found her guilty of serious professional misconduct, but Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons that the Crown Prosecution Service will examine material in the report to see ‘whether criminal charges should now be brought’.
He also paid tribute to his former ministerial colleague, the Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb who has long campaigned for an inquiry into Gosport, saying: ‘His instincts have been proved absolutely right.’
Mr Lamb himself described the report as ‘horrific’, adding: ‘There has been a real systemic failure here, a closing of ranks and a sense that ordinary people just weren't being listened to at all. There was an unwillingness by the NHS to face up to what happened in that hospital.’