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Gosport inquiry ‘ignored’ evidence about syringes

6:52 pm, 24th June 2018

The claims asserted that the concerns were ignored in order to avoid a national scandal and that the NHS was slow to take certain syringes out of use.

The result may have been thousands more deaths.

Explaining the issue, Dr Iain Lawrie, vice president of the Association for Palliative Medicine, told Sky News that some hospitals used two types of syringes in one unit – one to deliver drugs once an hour and the other to deliver drugs once every 24 hours.

“In trained hands, syringe drivers always have been safe, with good prescribing. But it’s in untrained hands and people who have been prescribing doses that possibly they shouldn’t… that’s where the issues lie.”

According to The Sunday Times, the whistle-blower was on the inquiry which concluded 456 people had their lives shortened after they were prescribed powerful opioids without medical justification.

The panel was warned a national helpline would have to be set up, as well as a compensation fund, if the full scale of the scandal emerged.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected the allegations – and insisted the independent inquiry “would have said” if there had been an issue.

“We have to respect the fact that this was an independent panel led by Bishop James Jones… this is someone who has spent his life taking on the British establishment,” he said.

However, Mr Hunt added the government would look into all the evidence relating to the use of the syringes, which were banned in countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

He said: “We need to look at all the evidence that we have… Urgent advice was sent as far back as 2010 and the information I have is that they were taken out of use in 2015… We will look at if that was as quick as it should have been.”

The whistle-blower had told the newspaper: “Anyone who has lost their granny over the past 30 years when opiates were administered by this equipment will be asking themselves, ‘Is that what killed Granny?'”

The Graseby MS26 and Graseby MS16A syringe drivers were open to misuse, the claims say.

About 40,000 of the devices – a quarter of the worldwide total – were in the UK, the majority in primary care.

A 2008 paper by the NHS’s now-defunct Purchasing and Supply Agency (PSA) said the devices were an “essential component of palliative care”.

The PSA said the devices, which appeared “very similar aside from colour”, delivered drugs at different rates.

“Confusing MS16A (which delivers in mm per hour) with MS26 (which delivers in mm per 24 hours) can result in an infusion rate 24 times higher than required, and numerous adverse incidents of their type have been reported,” the PSA said.

It added there were safer alternatives.

The Gosport report said: “The panel has considered issues concerned with the particular syringe drivers, known by their trade name of Graseby, and is aware of the hazard notices which applied.

“The panel’s analysis does not rest upon any issue relating to these notices.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “While there is a range of statutory requirements to monitor and improve safe management and use of controlled drugs, we would not hesitate to take further action to improve safety.”

The panel said: “These allegations are completely unfounded and without merit or support.”