Protest March Over Elderly Care

The daughter of a woman who died in a hospital investigated over the deaths of elderly patients led a protest march to Downing Street today.

The mother of Ann Reeves, 88-year-old Elsie Devine, was one of 92 patients who died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire, in the late 1990s and whose deaths were investigated by police.

An inquest jury found that Dr Jane Barton prescribed drugs which contributed to the deaths of five patients, including Mrs Devine, at the hospital during that time.

Earlier this year, the General Medical Council (GMC) also ruled that Dr Barton, who has since retired, was guilty of multiple instances of professional misconduct relating to 12 patients who died at the hospital.

The panel found she made a catalogue of failings in her treatment of the patients, who later died, including issuing drugs which were "excessive, inappropriate and potentially hazardous''.

The doctor's series of failings included making inadequate examinations of patients, failing to consult colleagues and poor note-keeping.

But instead of being struck off she was given a list of 11 conditions relating to her practice, including not being able to administer opiates by injection.

Last month, the Crown Prosecution Service, which reviewed the case for the third time, said that there was "insufficient evidence to prosecute'' Dr Barton following a review of the evidence from the GMC hearing.

Mrs Reeves, of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital Action Group, today headed about 30 people on the march from the Law Courts in Aldwych to Downing Street, where they handed in a petition calling for tighter rules governing the care of the elderly, known as "Elsie's Law''.

They want to ensure that doctors have to consult more widely before instigating "end of life'' care.

She was supported by members of the NHS Reform Group and the NHS Complaints Exposed Group who wore black and carried black balloons and banners.

Mrs Reeves said:

"My mother was not dying. Dr Barton administered drugs without justification or logic as proven by a jury at the Portsmouth inquest.

"As far as this Government goes, the case is closed but it's far from over for the families.''

Miguel Cubells, founding member of the NHS Reform Group, added:

"We seek openness, transparency and justice instead of the current culture of denial. Perhaps only then can the NHS begin to learn lessons and improve their systems across the board.''