Staff at a community hospital being investigated over the deaths of hundreds of patients are to be interviewed under caution by police, the investigating force has announced.
An independent police investigation was launched into Gosport War Memorial Hospital after a probe found hundreds of patients had their lives shortened through the use of opioids.
The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, which is managing the investigation codenamed Operation Magenta, have confirmed that officers are reviewing more than three millions pages of documents, including 700 patient medical records, and taking witness statements from more than 1,000 family members.
A spokesman for the force said a meeting was held on Wednesday to inform family members that a number of people are to be formally questioned over their alleged involvement in deaths at the hospital between 1987 and 2001.
Officers involved in the investigation are being provided specialist advice by medical experts, he added.
The spokesman said: “Those identified as persons of interest have been notified and contact has been made with their legal representatives ahead of them being interviewed.
“This process is ongoing and other individuals are expected to be identified in due course.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Jerome, of Operation Magenta, said: “This marks a significant step in the investigation into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital and is the result of many months of thorough and meticulous work by our team of investigators.
“The families of those who died are at the heart of everything we do; it has been important to see families today and speak to them about this latest development.
“We remain committed to building and maintaining trust and confidence among them and will continue to keep them updated on the progress of the investigation.
“It is however important to remember that an interview under caution grants those identified the legal protections to account for their alleged actions. It is in no way an implication of guilt.”
Relatives of some of those who died at the Hampshire hospital have campaigned for prosecutions to be brought over the deaths, and have called for a Hillsborough-model inquest.
More than 450 people had their lives shortened at the hospital while another 200 were “probably” similarly given opioids between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification, according to the Gosport Independent Panel report released in 2018.
Operation Magenta was launched in April 2019 following the publication of the report.
The report said there was “a disregard for human life and a culture of shortening lives of a large number of patients” at the hospital.
It said there was an “institutionalised regime of prescribing and administering ‘dangerous doses’ of a hazardous combination of medication not clinically indicated or justified”.
The inquiry, led by the former bishop of Liverpool James Jones, did not ascribe criminal or civil liability for the deaths.
The families say repeated ineffective investigations into hundreds of deaths at the hospital have left them without any justice or closure and have called for a new judge and jury inquest to be held rather than it be conducted by a coroner.
Emma Jones, of Leigh Day solicitors which represents several of the families, said: “After decades of waiting by families whose loved ones died at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, this development is a massive step.
“We welcome the decision to formally question people about their alleged involvement in deaths at Gosport Hospital between 1987 and 2001.
“We hope the process will not take too long because inquests were adjourned until after the conclusion of the police investigation and many of the families who have been waiting for these processes to conclude are themselves elderly.
“Families are still hopeful that the Attorney General will authorise a Hillsborough type judge-led inquiry into the deaths at Gosport Hospital.”
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