The NHS is in the firing line after Dr Jane Barton has been accused of actively participated in shortening the lives of many patients at Gosport memorial hospital. Her tendencies for prescribing patients opioids often without justification or necessity, was deemed responsible for the deaths of 456 patients, leaving the victim’s family infuriated and in pursuit of justice.
Barton had been working as a clinical assistant in the Department of Medicine for Elderly people for 12 years, until her resignation in 2002, where she treated a range of patientsfrom those with life threatening injuries to those with hip fractures.Barton was convicted of serious professional misconduct in 2010. Despite this her licence was not removed.
Dr Barton was prescribing these patients with opiates,which are intended to be used to cope with cancer pains along with short-lived acute pains, notlong-term rehabilitation like hip fractures. Furthermore, she was seen to leantowards treating patients withheavy-duty treatments such as palliative care despite some being there forcompletely separate treatments like rehabilitation. On frequent occasions Dr Barton unsuccessfully carried out the appropriate medical procedure of pain assessment. These inaccurate assessments would lead to higher doses of opioids being prescribed, shortening the lives of her patients.
Diamorphine was the drug most commonly given to patients at Gosport Memorial hospital. The drug is delivered through a syringe attached to the patients back and a constant dosage is given. In the 456 cases that Barton is responsible for there was no justification for the use of opioids. Families and officials have accused her of gross misconduct, despite her claims to have the patient’s best interests at heart.
Opioids have caused an epidemic in the USA, changing public opinion on the drugsthemselves, prescribed or not, to scepticism. Many opioids are known to be highly addictive, hence the growing stigma around the drug being prescribed by medical professionals.They are safe to use when taken for a short period of time,but it’s addictive nature means that patients prescribed them will often find themselves continuing to buy them illegally after their prescriptions run out. In addition, given that opioids and heroin give similar highs, some users of opioids switch to heroin as it’s cheaper and often easier to get a hold of.
The families of these patients are now calling for a further inquiry into the situation and for justice on what they believe had been a cover up since 1989. Nurses had reported suspicions of Dr Barton prior to the investigations yet no actions were ever taken infuriating the family of the victims further. Despite past inquiries Jeremy Hunt, Health secretary, has stated that Hampshire police should bring another force into the investigation. Yet Jeremy Hunt blames the idea of ‘blame culture’ claiming that nurses should not fear admitting what mistakes they have made.