According to a damning report released on Wednesday, Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire played host to an “institutionalised practice of shortening lives” under the direction of clinical assistant Dr Jane Barton, who was responsible for prescriptions made on the wards.
Between 1988 and 2000, her actions were said to have exhibited a “disregard for human life” that the inquiry found had likely led to an additional 200 patients being administered with opioids without any medical need.
Relatives of the elderly patients who died at the hospital branded the findings “chilling” and have called for criminal prosecutions to be brought.
In a statement on behalf of the families, Bridget Reeves, the granddaughter of 88-year-old Elsie Devine, said: “This has been sinister, calculated and those implicated must now face the rigour of the criminal justice system.
“Accountability must take precedence here. These horrifying, shameful, unforgivable actions need to be disclosed in a criminal court for a jury to decide and only then can we put our loved ones to rest.”
In 2010, the General Medical Council ruled that Dr Barton was guilty of multiple instances of professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital, but she was never struck off and has since retired.
The Oxford University graduate is yet to emerge since the findings of the inquiry were released, and nobody answered the door when Sky News visited her home address on Wednesday.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs that the police will “carefully examine” the report before determining whether charges should be brought, and suggested that Hampshire Police should bring in another force after nothing came of a previous investigation into what went on at the hospital.
Concerns were first raised by nurses in 1991 but went “unheeded”, the report said.
“There was a catalogue of failings by the local NHS, Hampshire Constabulary, the GMC, the NMC, the coroners and, as steward of the system, the Department of Health,” Mr Hunt said in the Commons.
“Had the establishment listened when junior NHS staff spoke out, had the establishment listened when ordinary families raised concerns instead of treating them as troublemakers, many of those deaths would not have happened.”
Mr Hunt also questioned whether there had been an “institutional desire” for the scandal to be blamed on a “rogue doctor” to protect reputations rather than address systemic failings.
Police focused their previous investigation solely on Dr Barton.