Gosport inquiry panel accused of "NHS cover up" over faulty syringe drivers

Victoria Ward
The panel is accused of ignoring evidence concerning faulty syringe drivers  - REUTERS

The Government inquiry into the Gosport deaths ignored evidence suggesting that cheap, faulty syringe drivers may be responsible for thousands of deaths across the UK, fearing a national scandal, it was claimed last night.

A whistleblower on the inquiry told the Sunday Times that concerns over the pumps used by Dr Jane Barton had been “buried” by the panel, describing it as “one of the biggest cover ups” in NHS history.

The drivers, which were used by the NHS for 30 years and rapidly dispensed powerful opiates into a patient’s bloodstream, have been linked to deaths right up until 2013.

The panel was warned that if the full scandal emerged a national helpline and no-fault compensation fund would need to be set up, the whistleblower claimed.

In its report, the Gosport Independent Panel concluded that Dr Jane Barton, a clinical assistant, was held responsible for the policies which led to the deaths of 656 patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

She was found guilty of "multiple instances of serious professional misconduct" by the General Medical Council in 2010, but was never prosecuted.

Jane Barton was held responsible for deaths at the Gosport Memorial Hospital Credit: Spencer Gale

Suspicious deaths continued to occur at Gosport after Barton left the hospital in 2000.

More than 100 syringe drivers were reportedly withdrawn from use at the hospital just over a year later following a series of “critical incidents.”

Around 40,000 of the pumps, called Graseby MS 16 A MS 26, are said to have been in circulation within the NHS and were deemed an essential component of British palliative care.

However, the devices were tricky to manage and in some cases, are said to have injected a day’s dose within one hour. One doctor told police in 2003 that they were “confusing” and “really dangerous”.

The devices were banned in New Zealand and Australia in the mid 2000s but despite safety alerts, they remained in use in the UK until 2015.

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Meanwhile, Norman Lamb, the former Liberal Democrat care minister,  has claimed he was sidelined in a bid to stop him making a fuss and that the Department of Health tried to block a public inquiry into the Gosport deaths.

An earlier report into suspected premature deaths at the hospital between 1989 and 2000 was completed in 2003 but was not published for ten years.

Mr Lamb told the Sunday Mirror: “Whoever received that document in 2003 surely should have said ‘this is unbelievable, we must pursue this’.”

“That decision not to investigate raises the question of motivation. I was left feeling they may have been attempting a cover-up.”