As a brief overview of this latest NHS scandal, more than 450 patients lost their lives as the result of wrongly being treated with very strong painkillers, notably Opiods from 1989 until 2000.
The Gosport Independant Report ("the Report")
The Report was produced by an independent panel who investigated the case. Initially, the panel of experts looked at the deaths of 163 patients who had been treated at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Their findings however, then prompted the panel to examine in excess of 2,000 deaths which took place between 1987 and 2001.
The Report revealed that medical professionals had intentionally been prescribing the strong painkiller to patients without justification and thus, really without reason. Unfortunately, it appears this became, if not a routine, a learnt behaviour amongst experts. The Chairman of the panel, who looked into this matter, namely James Jones, explained a culture developed where the unacceptable became the acceptable.
The independent panel have said that Dr Jane Barton had overseen the practice of prescribing the painkiller over many years.
The Report revealed the immense scale of the negligence. Despite the fatal and catastrophic consequences of the prescribing of the painkiller, without justification, does trigger the question of, how this was allowed to happen, not only on one occasion but on this vast scale?
How have those involved in the Gosport Scandal been penalised?
Whilst Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt advised MPs that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are to review the Report and thereafter advise as to whether criminal charges should be pursued, there is concerns that little further in that context has been done.
It is my understanding that the only person to face any disciplinary action has been Dr Barton as mentioned above. However, despite overseeing the reckless prescribing of the painkiller which led to so many deaths, no prosecutions have been bought and Dr Barton has not been struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council. Rather, Dr Barton has now opted for retirement and indeed it seems that is that.
Have medical professionals truly learned from their mistakes?
By no means am I suggesting a type of witch hunt into those responsible should be undertaken, but in view of the scale of recklessness in the Gosport scandal and the associated fatal consequences, surely further action and investigation is needed.
Since the publishing of the Report, we have all criticised the hospital for its lax culture which permitted the prescribing of the painkillers in question without justification however, we must now ensure that we also do not demonstrate a behaviour of accepting the unacceptable. In view of the Gosport Scandal, it appears perhaps further investigation should be conducted into other health boards to determine whether similar behaviour is being undertaken. At that point, serious contemplation needs to be given to determine whether further safeguarding, training, etc needs to be put in place surrounding the prescribing of medication.