Ten years ago, a woman told me about the deaths that were happening at Gosport. I struggled to believe her – then I read what she'd gathered

I had probably got through no more than 20 per cent of what Gillian had prepared for me when I became profoundly concerned at what I was reading

Stephen Lloyd
Thursday 21 June 2018 13:41 BST
Former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones on Gosport hospital deaths: 'There was an institutionalised practice of shortening lives'

This week saw the culmination of more than 10 years of hard work, as the report of the panel investigating deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital was released on Wednesday.

I have been campaigning for an inquiry since 2008, when a constituent of mine, Gillian Mackenzie, brought to me details of suspicious deaths at the hospital in Gosport, including her mother, Gladys Richards.

Apparently, she was transferred to the hospital 12 days after a straightforward hip operation in 1998, yet within 10 days she had passed away. Gillian – the force of nature that she is and close friend she has become over the past decade – believed something wasn’t right and took it upon herself to refer the case to the Hampshire Police Force. At that time, she was turned away by the police and the matter was not investigated.

When she came to see me a decade later, to be honest I struggled to comprehend what she was telling me, which was that her mother and numerous other people had died before their time within the War Memorial Hospital and that their deaths were effectively aided and abetted by staff.

This was a shocking and startling allegation, so I asked her to give me the comprehensive papers she’d collected over the years for me to read. I had probably got through no more than 20 per cent of what Gillian had prepared for me when I became profoundly concerned at what I was reading. I knew straight away that the whole dreadful issue needed proper, independent investigation.

At that time I wasn’t yet a member of parliament, but my colleague Norman Lamb was, and I knew that he may well share my fears of what might have taken place in Gosport all those years ago. Consequently, I arranged a meeting between myself, Gillian and a group of other affected families with Norman in parliament. He quickly became convinced there had, potentially, been something utterly wicked going on.

Five years later, Norman was a minister in the Department of Health during the coalition government. Ministers were looking to release a report into medical malpractice at the hospital in Gosport but accompanied, bizarrely, with a statement which added that the department would be taking no further action.

Thankfully, Norman refused to accept this approach and managed to persuade the then secretary of state for health, Andrew Lansley, that such a conclusion was inadequate – and that an independent panel should be established to investigate these deaths in full detail. This was subsequently set up, headed by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones – the same man who had successfully chaired the Hillsborough inquiry.

After four years of investigation, looking into a staggering 800 deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, the report concluded that at least 456 lives (possibly as many as 650) were cut short by the “institutional practice of prescribing and administering opioids without medical justification”. That is an astonishing and appalling conclusion – though not one that the families who lost loved ones will regard with surprise.

In my eyes, deliberately cutting a life short by nefarious means is nothing less than actively killing someone. It is now for the government to appoint a police force to examine the matter from a criminal point of view and for the CPS to take appropriate action if charges are believed to be justified. I made this point forcefully in the chamber yesterday. The relatives finally got the truth this week; now they need justice.

Many people have been affected by this tragedy and have done their bit to seek answers. I want particularly to thank Gillian Mackenzie for her determined, courageous perseverance, not only for the sake of her own mother but for the families of all those who lost a loved one, before their time, while they were under the care of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

I will keep up the fight so the individuals at the centre of this web of horror are brought to book and one day, I hope, face their accusers in court.

Stephen Lloyd is MP for Eastbourne

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