Doctor at centre of deaths probe at Gosport War Memorial Hospital retires

Ben Mitchell,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:08

The doctor at the centre of a probe into deaths at a community hospital is to retire, a health trust confirmed today.

Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of serious professional misconduct by a Fitness to Practise Panel at the General Medical Council (GMC) earlier this year.

The ruling was made after an investigation into a series of failings in her care of 12 patients at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire between January 1996 and November 1999.

The panel found she made a catalogue of failings in her treatment of the patients, who later died, including issuing drugs which were "excessive, inappropriate and potentially hazardous".

The doctor's series of failings included making inadequate examinations of patients, failing to consult colleagues and poor note-keeping.

But instead of being struck off she was given a list of 11 conditions relating to her practice, including not being able to administer opiates by injection.

She has continued to work as a GP at the Forton Medical Centre, Gosport, but has now given in her notice of retirement.

A spokeswoman for NHS Hampshire said: "I can confirm that Dr Barton has given her notice but we cannot comment on her personal reasons for doing so."

Mike Porter, head of practice at Forton Medical Centre, said that Dr Barton's final day of employment will be tomorrow but she stopped working two weeks ago having taken her annual leave entitlement.

He added that he understood that Dr Barton, who is now 60, did not intend to return to work as a doctor.

He said: "We are sorry to see her go, she was very well supported by the doctors and the staff here.

"As far as I am aware, Jane has retired and that is it. When GPs retire they have the option to come back to work at the same practice but she has not asked us to come back."

Families of some of those who died at the hospital reacted with disgust at the GMC ruling which is currently being reviewed by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) which monitors the work of health regulatory bodies.

Iain Wilson, 51, from Gosport, whose 74-year-old father Robert Wilson was one of the patients, said that Dr Barton's retirement left several questions unanswered.

He said: "We do not know if she has retired from just her practice or from the medical profession, it just means that she can start up somewhere else.

"If she is retiring from the profession that will safeguard a lot of old people.

"It is just unfortunate that she retires on a full pension and her retirement is not a punishment, she should have been struck off."

In their ruling, the GMC panel noted that Dr Barton appeared unrepentant and that she still insisted that her actions in the circumstances at the time were correct.

Dr Barton said in a statement released after the GMC hearing: "Anyone following this case carefully will know that I was faced with an excessive and increasing burden in trying to care for patients at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

"I did the best I could for my patients in the circumstances until finally I had no alternative but to resign."

The 12 patients were Robert Wilson, 74, Eva Page, 87, Alice Wilkie, 81, Gladys Richards, 91, Leslie Pittock, 82, Elsie Lavender, 83, Ruby Lake, 84, Enid Spurgeon, 92, Geoffrey Packman, 67, Elsie Devine, 88, Arthur Cunningham, 79, and Jean Stevens, 73.

The GMC hearing followed an inquest held at Portsmouth which recorded verdicts that drugs had been a factor in five deaths at the hospital.

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