An NHS investigation into alleged sexual abuse carried out by the late Jimmy Savile is to be widened with his conduct at hospitals not previously linked to wrongdoing to be examined for the first time.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said an eagerly-awaited inquiry into what happened at some of the country’s best known medical institutions, which were regularly visited by the former DJ during for four decades, was now likely to be delayed.
Among the known allegations against the Jim’ll Fix It star – now considered to be Britain’s most prolific sex offender - are that he molested a dying child and assaulted patients at secure psychiatric units.
Former barrister Kate Lampard has been examining activities centring on Savile’s activities at Stoke Mandeville and Leeds General Infirmary where 38 of the suspected offences occurred but also at Broadmoor and 10 other institutions. Mr Hunt said he would reveal the names of the other hospitals affected at a later date.
Officials from the Department of Health have asked Metropolitan Police officers from Operation Yewtree – one of six separate inquiries set up following Savile’s death in October 2011 – to pass on any information it had which might refer to “health and care settings”, Mr Hunt said.
“We understand the material includes information about hospitals where investigations are already underway, and reference to other hospitals,” he told Parliament in a statement.
The Met is already examining evidence of criminal conduct by Savile in a probe which has drawn in a number of other celebrities. It is expected to report in the New Year with reports suggesting the final number of victims could exceed 500.
Mr Hunt said the separate NHS inquiry would now publish its findings in June 2014.
Lawyers representing victims of Savile welcomed the widening of the NHS inquiry but said those that had suffered at the DJ’s hands would be dismayed at the further delay.
Liz Dux, head of abuse at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, who represents 72 potential victims, said: “My clients all need closure and whilst we welcome a detailed understanding of how Savile was able to operate unchecked for so many years, at the same time we need to recognise that until these reports are concluded their suffering continues.”
Savile raised an estimated £40m for charity during his lifetime and his fundraising role gave him unparalleled access to the institutions he helped. He had his own bedroom and living quarters at Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor and worked as a porter in Leeds where he mingled freely with patients.
A report by the NSPCC and Scotland Yard said he committed up to 57 offences at hospitals including Great Ormond Street, Exeter, Portsmouth Royal and Ashworth high secure unit. It was claimed he carried out one offence at a hospice in Leeds.
The report published in January said his first offence was committed at Stoke Mandeville in 1965, the last at Leeds General Infirmary in 1995 although it is believed his final attack took place during the filming of Top of the Pops in 2006.
Three quarters of his victims, who included dying children, were under 18 whilst 82 per cent were female. Lesley McLean, divisional manager for victim support in West Yorkshire, said: "Reliving past abuses can be extremely traumatic for victims, who have had to cope with these events for many years. While getting to the truth of what happened is important, we continue to make sure that victims come first, and are given the emotional support they need as this investigation progresses.”