Chapter 9: The local and national media
Conclusion: what is added to public understanding
- The Panel has seen no documents suggesting that the concerns expressed by the nurses in 1991 were drawn to the attention of either the local or national media at the time.
- The documents available to the Panel show that the first time the local or national media covered the relevant allegations was in April 2001, over two and a half years after Gillian Mackenzie contacted Hampshire Constabulary, thereby bringing about the police investigation.
- The documents show the prominent part played by the Portsmouth News in pursuing concerns about Gosport War Memorial Hospital (‘the hospital’) and the related police investigations, as well as the accuracy of its early reporting.
- The documents illustrate the sometimes close relationship between the police and the media.
- On 3 April 2001, the Portsmouth News published the story on its front page under the headline “Probe Into Suspicious Death at Hospital – police investigation into alleged unlawful killing of patient, 91”. The article suggested that detectives had prepared a dossier on the death and that the police might have to re-examine up to 600 other deaths at the hospital. The article put into the public domain the main issues at the hospital, which have taken a further 17 years to come fully to light.
- The documents show how the police and the healthcare organisations made contact when the media raised questions.
- The local media made a connection between the response to the criticisms being made by the relatives of the patients and the pride felt about the hospital in Gosport.
- The documents illustrate that the media coverage played a significant part in encouraging staff who had worked on the wards to take action.
- Local media coverage reflected a number of the concerns of the Gosport families. National media coverage also did so. The latter was episodic and was informed, for example, by the interest shown by the medical correspondent of The Sunday Times, Lois Rogers, and by the health reporter of the Independent, Nina Lakhani.
- Local and national media coverage of the hospital intensified in the course of 2009 as the inquests began and the General Medical Council pursued the question of Dr Jane Barton’s fitness to practise. Media comment became more critical of the hospital and the investigative processes and more in tune with the dissatisfaction expressed by bereaved relatives of patients at the hospital. This would prove to be a transition towards a period of growing demand for some form of independent inquiry.