Lois Rogers

Journalist and Communicator

Gosport GP Jane Barton ‘responsible for hundreds of hospital deaths’

Health

A retired GP will be found responsible this week for the deaths of hundreds of her patients, The Sunday Times understands.

Dr Jane Barton, 69, is accused of prescribing fatal overdoses of opiate painkillers to her elderly patients while working at Gosport War Memorial Hospital near Portsmouth in the 1990s.

A government panel has examined 833 death certificates signed by Barton after previous investigations left “unanswered questions” and failed to result in any prosecutions, leading to accusations of a cover-up.

A £13m investigation, led by James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, who chaired the Hillsborough independent panel, will publish its findings on Wednesday.

It is expected to find the “brusque and indifferent” doctor responsible for prescribing diamorphine — a powerful painkiller also known as heroin — and shortening hundreds of lives, including those where patients could have recovered.

The panel will not say how many deaths it is reviewing, but the number of people who died suspiciously under her care could exceed the 92 cases examined by police previously and the 833 whose death certificates she signed. The panel widened its investigation to include not only Barton’s alleged killings, but those of healthcare workers acting on her orders. They include a nurse described as her “right-hand man”.

Dori Graham, 86, said her husband, Leonard, was killed after receiving care from Barton and then a fatal injection by the nurse. She said: “Len said he wasn’t in pain but they gave him the injection anyway. I sat there. Within a few minutes he was dead.”

The disclosure came as another family member repeated her call to see Barton behind bars. Bridget Reeves says her 88-year-old grandmother, Elsie Devine, was killed at Gosport in 1999.

She said: “We would like to see Barton and the other people involved prosecuted.”

Norman Lamb, the former health minister, said: “Barton’s conduct begs questions about why previous police investigations got nowhere and about the closing of ranks in the area.”

Despite these calls, a source close to the inquiry said it would not refer the case to police or the Crown Prosecution Service when it issues its findings.

Asked whether it would press for a criminal investigation, the source said: “No,” adding: “It is not in our remit.”

The bishop will inform families of the findings on Wednesday in a closed session at Portsmouth Cathedral, before the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, makes a statement. Theresa May is expected to refer to the report in prime minister’s questions that day.

There is no suggestion Barton is guilty of murder. Last week she insisted she would not comment until the report was issued.

Written by Lois Rogers