Dr. Opiate probe: Health officials tried to cover up the scandal despite nurses raising an alert 30 years ago, shocking emails reveal
The report that was made by Professor Richard Baker in 2003 found that the painkillers had 'almost certainly shortened the lives of some patients'
Shocking revelations emerged in the 'Dr. Opiate probe, after emails sent by multiple Whitehall health officials reveal a deliberate attempt to "cover up" the Gosport opiate scandal. In fact, the emails also revealed that the nurses had first alerted authorities to the nefarious activities of the doctor, Jane Barton, almost thirty years ago. The shocking news comes after a whistleblower had warned that it was because of faulty syringes that thousands had died across the country.
Over the years, the news also emerged that many nurses had warned the chiefs at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital as early as 1988 that tons of patients were getting drugs "without medical justification".
Norman Lamb, the former health minister, was away on a two-week holiday when officials gathered to publish the report in 2013, a decade later after it was prepared. Lamb suspects that he was left out of the loop on purpose. The Liberal Democrat MP spoke about his fears regarding the premature deaths in the scandal: "If I was a relative I would regard that as pretty serious - i.e. that my mum has been killed!"
The Sunday Mirror reported that Lamb told the civil servants he was "extremely unhappy" that he had not seen the review into the deaths of the patients. He told the publication that he was "left feeling they may have been attempting a cover-up."
The publication reported that many hospital bigwigs were informed about how nurses feared that their patients were given excessive doses of diamorphine but no action was taken to stop it from happening. A scandalous report that was released has claimed more than 450 people were given shorter lives as a result of being prescribed the dangerous painkillers at Gosport. It has also been claimed that 200 more patients were "probably" given similar opioids between 1989 and 2000 without any medical justification.
The report that was prepared by Professor Richard Baker in 2003 found that the painkillers had "almost certainly shortened the lives of some patients". This report, however, had not been published until a decade later in 2013. Lamb said that the health officials should have realised what the situation was sooner. He said: "Whoever received that document in 2003 should have surely said to themselves, this is unbelievable, we must pursue this." In one of the emails he wrote to the civil servants, he said: "Officials have not let me see the Baker report despite them knowing of my real interest. I feel that officials are deliberately doing this whilst I'm away."
The former health minister said that a press release that was put out about the report showed "no expression of regret [or] remorse for this awful treatment". Lamb also countered the stance taken by the officials who wanted to put a roadblock on a public inquiry into the Gosport incident. He said that he would consider it as a "pretty serious" issue is he was a relative of one of the victims. Lamb was the minister for care and support from 2012 to 2015.
In an incident that is related to the scandal, a man named Ian Williamson, has come forward to reveal that his parents had passed away only two weeks apart in the hospital, where he claims that medics "kill people under the guise of easing their pain". Ian said that after his mother Ivy passed away, the nursing staff at the hospital had told him that they would make his father Jack's time at the hospital "comfortable... like we did for your mum". He had been adamant that both his parents did not need any painkillers in spite of their conditions.
According to Ian, 79-year-old Ivy, was put on a diamorphine driver at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital. She passed away in September 2000 before the rest of the family could say their goodbyes. His father, 81-year-old Jack, then died suddenly 17 days later even though he was supposed to go to a nursing home.
Ian said: "The medical profession is killing those people under the guise of easing their pain. They’re helping them on their way. Am I against euthanasia? No. I do believe in it, and I wouldn’t want to live if I couldn’t function. I’d sooner be put out of my misery. But it’s got to be your choice. I felt for years they just thought Dad should die. When we came back from Mum’s funeral one of the nursing staff said, 'We’ll make your father comfortable like we did your mum'."
"It’s almost ominous. At the time we thought that was nice. But we were unaware then of what we know now. We went to the cremation for Mum and took Dad back to the hospital. He seemed all right. Obviously, he was upset, but he didn’t deteriorate."
Williamson and his wife Pauline, both 63, came forward after the inquiry report into the 656 patients that are feared to have been given deadly doses of the painkillers at the Hampshire hospital between the years of 1988 and 2000.
69-year-old GP Jane Barton, who has been given the title Dr. Opiate, was the one in charge of giving out the prescribed medication to all the patients.
Ivy had been suffering from lung cancer before her death that was discovered after she had a fall but her family claims she was not in pain. Pauline recalls: "She never knew she had lung cancer. Ian’s aunt and uncle even took her out of the hospital for tea. She told them, 'I’m in no pain. I feel a bit of a fraud being here'. That was the last thing anyone ever spoke to her about. Suddenly she was put on to the driver, fell into a coma and died not long after."
Ian's father, Jack, had to have both his legs amputated at another hospital after he suffered a longstanding venous disease, which is when the valves in the veins stop functioning. He was then transferred to Gosport so that he could be with his wife Ivy only a few weeks after they renewed their wedding vows. Unfortunately, Ivy died just days after her husband, a former RAF helicopter engineer, arrived at the hospital.
Ian, who is a barber, from Netley Abbey in Southampton, said there had been no reason for his father to have been given the diamorphine but they had gone along with what the medics had told them. He said: "In hindsight, it was clear something was not right. It was almost common knowledge in the early 1990s and 2000s that you went in but didn’t come out. Everybody seemed to know but nothing was done about it."
Pauline then recalled how they went to visit Jack in Gosport while he was being treated for the venous disease a few years earlier. She said: "Jack was in a four-bed ward. The next day we visited and the other three beds were empty – they’d died during the night." Williamson then spoke about his shock as Bishop James Jones, the head of the inquiry, had revealed the lengthy details of the scandal. He said: "It was like a cold shower. How could this have gone on for so long? Even 10 years ago when she (Dr Barton) was investigated and suspended, she wasn’t struck off. What has a doctor or a nurse got to do to be struck off by the GMC?"
The inquiry had found out that there was an "institutionalised practice of shortening lives". He is still not sure if any criminal charges that are laid out against Dr. Barton will bring any comfort to the families of the many victims. He said: "A lot of people want to see Dr Barton locked up. But would it help?"