Chapter 10: The local MP
On 25 January 2002, the Independent reported: “Woman says Tory MPs refused to help her in medical dispute.” The newspaper reported Mrs Mackenzie as saying that she had tried to enlist the support of Mr Viggers but that:
“Westminster convention prevented him becoming involved … They had just been dismissive, totally dismissive. They should at least take a look at the papers. While I appreciate that Nigel Waterson is in a difficult position, Mr Viggers should take an interest in matters involving his own constituency.” (FAM600315, p1)
Mr Viggers is quoted in the same article: “I have never had any complaint about Gosport War Memorial Hospital. The doctors are very dedicated” (FAM600315, p1).
On 15 April, Mr Viggers wrote to Marilyn Jackson thanking her for sending him her letters to the police and the General Medical Council about the death of her mother, Alice Wilkie. He told Mrs Jackson that, in the first instance, he had asked the Chief Constable for a copy of his response (FAM003144).
On 18 May, Iain Wilson wrote to Mr Viggers enclosing a copy of his complaint about the police investigation into the circumstances of the death of his father, Robert Wilson. In his letter, Iain Wilson said:
“I live in your constituency my father was unlawfully killed in it, I believe that you are duty bound to not only raise questions in the House with regards the standard of care and the increase in deaths at the War Memorial, but to also put pressure and lobby the Home Secretary to reopen this investigation. This is what we now expect you to do, anything less will just not be acceptable.” (IMI000356, p1)
Three days later, Mr Viggers replied. He said that he had recently met the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Primary Care Trust (PCT) and had a further meeting with them arranged shortly. He pointed out that the CHI report was awaited and said that he was also in touch with the police. He concluded his letter by saying: “This is a most sensitive issue and I should like to express my sympathy to those who have been bereaved. I will write to you further in due course” (IMI000360, p1).
On 8 July, Ann Reeves wrote to Mr Viggers complaining about his lack of action and saying that he had ignored her previous letters. On 16 July, Mr Viggers replied saying he was aware of the distress of families whose relatives had died in the hospital. He added: “Nevertheless, having kept in touch with the hospital over the years and, of course, read the CHI report, I believe we should respect the commitment and dedication of those who work at the hospital and provide a high standard of care” (FAM003143, p1).
In the course of the same month, Mr Viggers received further letters from family members. On 15 July, Marjorie Bulbeck questioned whether he had read and absorbed the implications of the CHI report, given that he had commented 24 hours after its publication. She added: “You should be reassuring your constituents that NOW it is a safe hospital only because people like myself have had the courage to complain, if we had not patients would still be enduring the regime and dying” (FAM001314, p1).
Mr Viggers replied on 22 July. Having read the CHI report and discussed it with the Fareham and Gosport PCT, he did not think that her comments were justified. In his typed letter, Mr Viggers said: “Some very extravagant language has been used by a small number of people, but this does not alter the fact that a high standard of care is provided by a devoted staff.” In a handwritten note Mr Viggers added: “Having said that, I am of course sorry that you were dissatisfied with your mother’s treatment” (FAM001312, p1).
In between receiving Mrs Bulbeck’s letter and replying, Emily Yeats wrote to Mr Viggers on 17 July 2002 about the hospital and her grandmother’s death. Responding to his comments in the Portsmouth News on 5 July, she said that it was shameful that, after all this time, he still did not appear willing to accept that there were serious problems at the hospital relating to drugs given and the standard of care received (FAM003140, p1).
Miss Yeats added:
“You appear happy to back a hospital which appears willing to protect wicked individuals who took it upon themselves to administer these drugs to people. I think that your comment referring to the pressures placed on staff at the hospital as a result of complaints is misguided to say the least. I’ll tell you something now - if it had not been for families’ complaints and continuing to fight despite being knocked back time and again the CHI report would never have been written, procedures not changed and I fear people would still be dying unnecessarily. BUT, the report does exist and you cannot ignore its presence or its damning contents.” (FAM003140, p1)
Miss Yeats concluded her letter:
“If you had any heart or sense of conscience you would be calling for the individuals responsible for this tragedy to be held accountable for their actions. After all, the Fareham and Gosport Primary Care Trust (PCT) may be attempting to hide behind a systems failure excuse, but it is clear to anybody that actually looks at these cases, that whilst the trust IS at fault for failing to put systems in place to prevent an individual from allegedly committing a criminal act, the fact remains that an individual doctor ‘chose’ to administer those drugs which CHI has acknowledged were excessive and inappropriate. This from a doctor with many years of training and experience. Its time you stood up for what is right Mr Viggers and push for justice. Stop pretending that these problems don’t exist. After all, its there for you in black and white.” (FAM003140, pp1–2)
A month later Mr Viggers responded to Miss Yeats, confirming that his comments about the hospital had been correctly reported, adding:
“Medical practice has changed in recent years and it is no longer possible for doctors to prescribe a range of medicines, leaving a level of discretion to nurses. Personally, I regret the litigious spirit which has caused doctors to become more defensive. For the record, I disagree with a number of statements you make in your letter and the manner in which you express these.” (FAM003141, p1)
Three months later, on 20 November 2002, the Portsmouth News reported that Mr Viggers had visited the hospital to meet patients and staff and show his support. Mr Viggers is quoted as saying: “In light of the bad publicity the hospital has been receiving, I wanted to walk through the hospital to say ‘hello’ to patients and staff and to wish them well … The patients were more than happy to tell me about the high standard of care they were receiving.” Mr Viggers is then quoted as adding: “One relative rushed after me along the corridor to praise the work that they did. They are doing a great job” (FAM000050, p47).