About the Panel
Concerns about the care of older patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital have been the subject of scrutiny since 1998. Families of those who died have persistently sought a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of their relatives and the care they received prior to death.
There have been numerous investigations into the events surrounding these deaths: three police investigations; a Commission for Health Improvement investigation; a General Medical Council (GMC) inquiry; a review by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence; and inquests into 11 deaths at the hospital. In 2010, after reviewing the material from the ten inquests and the GMC proceedings, the Crown Prosecution Service concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for an offence of gross negligence manslaughter ... in respect of each of the ten deaths reviewed”.
In 2013, the Department of Health published a clinical audit carried out by Professor Richard Baker in 2003 of the care that had taken place at the hospital. This 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 of the Department of Medicine for Elderly People at Gosport hospital ... The practice almost certainly had shortened the lives of some patients, and it cannot be ruled out that a small number of these would otherwise have been eventually discharged from hospital alive”.
For the families, there remain unanswered questions about the care of their relatives, the circumstances surrounding their treatment and death and the slow progress of the various investigations.
In light of this, Norman Lamb, the former Minister of State for Care and Support at the Department of Health, established the Gosport Independent Panel under the chairmanship of Bishop James Jones. The Panel was to review the documentary evidence held across a range of organisations concerning the initial care of families’ relatives, and the subsequent investigations into their deaths, at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.