This week saw the culmination of over 10 years’ hard work come to a head, as the report of the panel investigating deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital was released.
I have been campaigning for an inquiry into this since 2008, when local constituent, Mrs Gillian Mackenzie, brought to me a case of suspicious deaths in hospital in Gosport, including her mother, Gladys Richards. Apparently, she was transferred to the hospital 12 days after a straightforward hip operation in 1998, yet within 10 days she had passed away. Gillian, the force of nature that she is and close friend she has become over the last decade, believed something wasn’t right and took it upon herself to refer the case to the Hampshire Police Force. At that time, she was turned away by the police and the matter was not investigated. When she came to see me 10 years later, to be honest I struggled to comprehend what she was telling me and that is her mother and numerous other people had died before their time within the hospital and that their deaths were aided and abetted by staff. This was a shocking allegation, so I asked her to give me the comprehensive papers she’d collected over the years for me to read. I had probably just about got through 20 per cent of what Gillian had prepared for me, when I became profoundly concerned at what I was reading, and that the whole dreadful issue needed proper, independent investigation. At this time I wasn’t an MP, but I knew my colleague, Norman Lamb was, and that he may well share my fears of what just might have taken place in Gosport all those years ago. Consequently, I arranged a meeting between myself, Gillian and a group of other affected families with Mr Lamb in Parliament. He quickly became convinced there was, potentially, something utterly wicked going on here.
Five years later, and now a Minister during the Coalition in the Department of Health, the Government was looking to release a report into medical malpractice at the hospital but accompanied, bizarrely, with a statement which added that the Department would be taking no further action! Norman refused, thankfully, to accept this and managed to persuade the then Secretary of State for Health that such an action was wrong and called for an independent panel to investigate these deaths. This was subsequently set up, headed by the Bishop of Liverpool Rev James Jones – the same man who chaired the Hillsbrough Inquiry.
After four years of investigation, looking into a staggering 800 deaths at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital, the report concluded that at least 456 lives (possibly as many as 650) were cut short by the “institutional practice of prescribing and administering opioids without medical justification.” In my eyes, deliberately cutting a life short by nefarious means is nothing less than actively killing someone. It is now for the Government to appoint a police force to look into these crimes and for the CPS to take appropriate action. I made this point forcefully in the Chamber. The relatives finally got the truth this week, now they need justice.
I want to thank Mrs Gillian Mackenzie for her determined, courageous perseverance, not only for the sake of her own mother but for the families of all those who lost a loved one, before their time. I will keep up the fight so the individuals at the centre of this web of horror are brought to book and, one day, face their accusers in court.
From one appalling episode to a high quality local care service which is set to close. This is the dreadful news that East Sussex County Council are planning the closure of Firwood House rehabilitation centre if officers’ proposals are agreed by the County Council Cabinet meeting in Lewes next Tuesday (June 26). Milton Grange, which as you know was also under threat of closure is, apparently, to be given an expanded role and take up all the rehab work done undertaken at Firwood House, as well as continue with its extensive dementia respite provision - so remains safe - for the moment! However, I just do not see how this is realistically possible. The council’s plan, pure and simple, is all about putting cost-cutting ahead of providing a reputable, quality service which we all know local people need. And I think that’s wrong.
It’s almost beyond parody that a rehabilitation unit which is recognised to be one of the best in the South East, has received significant investment from the same county council over the years and, last but not least, is recognised as providing an unparalleled service in successfully preventing bed blocking in our very own DGH - is to be closed by East Sussex County Council.
What are they thinking? I oppose this dreadful recommendation wholeheartedly as do thousands of local residents in Eastbourne and beyond. Furthermore, I urge the responsible Eastbourne Conservative County Councillors, David Elkin, Colin Belsey and Barry Taylor do the right thing for our town and persuade their Tory colleagues on ESCC to reject the Officers proposal.
Finally, it was my birthday last Friday, so Cherine, her sister Michaele and Cherine’s son Alex generously took me out to dinner - Charlie Browns on Seaside Road. A great meal as ever, and it was lovely to catch up with Ang and all her hardworking family and team. Delicious American Diner that’s been an Eastbourne staple for over 35 years, and the whole restaurant joined in the Happy Birthday surprise she gave me which was kind.
That’s it folks, have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.