Reputation management, rather than conspiracy, blamed for Gosport failings

Public sector organisations involved in the Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal were more concerned with safeguarding their reputations than protecting patients and their families, according to the Gosport Independent Panel's report.

Relatives of people affected by the scandal hold banners ahead of the inquiry's report (Pic credit: Brighton Pictures/REX/Shutterstock)
Relatives of people affected by the scandal hold banners ahead of the inquiry's report (Pic credit: Brighton Pictures/REX/Shutterstock)

The panel of eight, experts in fields such as medicine and law, was chaired by Bishop James Jones. It found that more than 450 patients died after being given "dangerous" doses of drugs they did not appear to need in a place where there was "a disregard for human life".

There were probably at least another 200 patients at the Hampshire hospital who were similarly affected, but whose medical records were not found, according to the report.

Yet victims' families were "were consistently let down by those in authority" when they made repeated attempts to raise their concerns.

It stated: "The senior management of the hospital, healthcare organisations, Hampshire Constabulary, local politicians, the coronial system, the Crown Prosecution Service, the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) all failed to act in ways that would have better protected patients and relatives, whose interests some subordinated to the reputation of the hospital and the professions involved."

While it was "understandable that the almost uniform consistency with which all concerns were dismissed and families were rebuffed might lead to suspicions of collusion or conspiracy between organisations", the panel said it did not find any evidence to support this.

Instead, it concluded: "The underlying explanation is the tendency of individuals in organisations, when faced with serious allegations, to handle them in a way that limits the impact on the organisation and its perceived reputation."

The report added: "Too readily opting for what is convenient within an organisational setting is the enemy of recognising the real significance of concerns and allegations."

Many public bodies have apologised for their part in the scandal. Dr David Chilvers, speaking on behalf of the local NHS, including Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We want to offer our full sympathy and sincere apologies to all of those affected."

He added: "’The events in the 1980s and 1990s described in the Panel’s report should not have happened, and we are truly sorry that the standard of care provided was entirely unacceptable, and that families were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserved."

Charlie Massey, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: "Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their loved ones, following simply unacceptable treatment at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Patients and their families were clearly let down by the system, and that is not good enough."

Matthew McClelland, director of fitness to practice at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, issued a public apology to the families of those who died: "It’s clear that we and others badly let them down and I am very sorry for the role we have played in that."

And Olivia Pinkney, chief constable of Hampshire Constabulary, said: "I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for our part in the distress caused to families for so many years."

In contrast, the CPS has not posted any response on its website and is responding to requests for comment with a terse statement: "We will consider the content of the report and will take any appropriate steps as required."

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