Thousands of patients may died ‘due to faulty opiate syringe pumps’

THOUSANDS of NHS patients could have been killed in ‘one of the biggest cover-ups ever’: Faulty syringe pumps used by Gosport Dr Opiate are to blame for deaths across the UK’

  • ‘Confusing’ and ‘dangerous’ devices quickly dispensed drugs into bloodstream
  • Faulty pumps could have made Dr Jane Barton even more lethal to her patients
  • Was found responsible for some 650 deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Faulty syringe pumps may have led to the deaths of thousands of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in ‘one of the biggest cover-ups in NHS history’.

The ‘confusing’ and ‘dangerous’ devices could have made disgraced Dr Jane Barton even more lethal, an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed.

Last week she was found to be responsible for the deaths of up to 650 people and a culture of recklessly dishing out powerful opiates at the hospital in Hampshire.

Dr Jane Barton, who was found to be responsible for the deaths of up to 650 elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire

Graseby MS 16A and MS 26 syringe drivers at the Hampshire hospital were branded ‘dangerous’ and ‘confusing’ by one doctor (pictured: a Graseby MS 16A pump)

Now it has emerged that syringe pumps were being used at the hospital which dispensed medication into the bloodstream at dangerous speed.

The pumps, used in the NHS for at least 30 years, were faulty and gave ambiguous measurements, making it easy to overlook errors when administering drugs. 

Dr Barton, responsible for prescribing medicine at Gosport, was interrogated along with other staff about the devices as part of Operation Rochester in 2003. 


  • Angry Dr Opiate brands police probe ‘repugnant and deeply…


    EXCLUSIVE: Relatives of ‘Dr Opiate’ quizzed over the deaths…

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But a Department of Health whistleblower claims decision-makers on the panel of the inquiry into deaths of elderly patients at the hospital ‘ignored’ and ‘buried’ it.

Fearing a national scandal, they disregarded a doctor’s warning that the pumps were ‘dangerous’ and ‘confusing’ in their final report.

As a result, deaths linked to the devices continued until at least 2013, The Sunday Times revealed.

‘This could be one of the biggest cover-ups in NHS history,’ the whistleblower told the paper. 

Elsie Devine (pictured) died at Gosport in 1999 aged 88, weighing just seven stone

Edna Purnell, 91, died at the hospital in 1998. Her son was threatened with arrest when he tried to feed her

More than 100 Graseby MS 16A and MS 26 syringe drivers at Gosport were withdrawn after Dr Barton left in 2000.

The 69-year-old prescribed fatal overdoses of opiate painkillers to her elderly patients while working at the hospital between 1988 and 2000.

Dubbed ‘Dr Opiate’, the Oxford-educated GP is believed to have left the country with husband Tim after they were visited by police.

Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where hundreds of patients died prematurely

A new police force is launching a fresh investigation into the GP after three haphazard enquiries by Hampshire Police.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said the force ‘cannot hide’ from the ‘considerable damage to confidence’ caused by the independent report. 

TIMELINE OF TRAGIC FAILINGS AT GOSPORT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL 

1988 Dr Jane Barton starts working at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Hip operation patient Gladys Richards dies that August.

1991/92 Staff raise concerns about increased mortality rate, ‘unnecessary’ use of diamorphine and concerns about Dr Barton’s administration of the painkiller.

1998 Hampshire Police’s first investigation into deaths after Gladys Richards case. Her two daughters call the force to allege she was unlawfully killed.

1999 Police submit papers to the CPS, but CPS decides no prosecution would be justified. Three more families complain.

2000 NHS Independent Review Panel finds that, while drug doses were high, they were appropriate. 

Hampshire Police reopen Mrs Richards’ case. Experts find her ‘death occurred earlier than it would have done from natural causes’ but CPS says again there is insufficient evidence.

2001 More families raise concerns and four selected for review. Two experts give conflicting opinions, but police do not forward these to CPS. 

Commission for Health Improvement begins investigation into care and management, interviewing 59 staff.

2002 CHI report faults the hospital’s systems to provide good care. Professor Richard Baker commissioned to analyse mortality rates. 

Hampshire Police open third inquiry after relatives of 62 patients contact force. 92 deaths probed, 78 fail to meet ‘negligence’ threshold. In four more, ‘essential element of causation could never be proven’.

2003 Baker report finishes but not made public. Finds almost routine use of opiates which almost certainly shortened some lives.

2006 Police investigation narrows to ten deaths. A ‘common denominator’ is that Dr Barton was responsible for care of cases. 

She is interviewed. CPS decides it cannot ‘be proved that doctors were negligent to criminal standard’.

2009 Inquests into the ten deaths investigated by police. Narrative verdicts say five patients given medication not appropriate and contributed to deaths. 

It is also ruled medication had contributed to two more deaths but had been given for therapeutic reasons. Medication had not contributed to the other five deaths.

2010 GMC finds Dr Barton guilty of misconduct and that she prescribed ‘potentially hazardous’ levels of drugs. 

She is not struck off but given a list of 11 conditions relating to her practice. She retires. 

CPS says no criminal charges are to be brought against her after finding insufficient evidence to prosecute for gross negligence manslaughter in ten cases. 

Ann Reeves, daughter of patient Elsie Devine, leads a protest march to Downing Street.

2013 Final and eleventh inquest into Gladys Richards finds painkillers and sedatives ‘more than insignificantly’ contributed to her death. Baker report published, ten years after it concluded.

2014 Health minister Norman Lamb establishes inquiry which released its report yesterday.

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