A retired GP at the centre of the Gosport hospital scandal has said she was a “hard working” doctor who tried to do her best in a “very inadequately resourced part of the health service”.
Dr Jane Barton, a former clinical assistant at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, was last week implicated in a damning report of being responsible for possibly contributing to hundreds of patients’ early deaths.
A statement read today by her husband Tim said: “Jane would like to thank her family, friends, colleagues, former patients and many others for their continued support and loyalty through this protracted inquiry.
“She has always maintained that she was a hard working doctor doing her best for her patients in a very inadequately resourced part of the health service.
“We ask that our privacy is respected at this difficult time, she will be making no comment.”
A government panel led by the former bishop of Liverpool James Jones, reviewed 833 death certificates signed by Dr Barton last week.
It published a report which concluded that more than 450 people had their lives shortened after being prescribed the powerful painkillers, while another 200 were “probably” similarly given opioids between 1989 and 2000 without medical justification.
In the wake of the report, which was published on Wednesday, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the “blame” culture in the NHS had to change, and said it was sometimes made too difficult for whistleblowers to raise concerns or for medics to admit mistakes.
Relatives of elderly patients who died at the hospital branded the report’s findings “chilling” and called for criminal prosecutions to be brought.
Hampshire Constabulary revealed on Thursday that the deaths would be investigated by a new force following criticism of the three previous police inquiries.
The Gosport panel found that, over a 12-year period, Dr Barton was “responsible for the practice of prescribing which prevailed on the wards”. There is no suggestion she intentionally took lives.
The panel said the case of GP Harold Shipman, who was jailed in 2000 for murdering 15 patients, had “cast a long shadow” over events at the hospital.
The perception that Dr Barton might be a “lone wolf” operating alone “rapidly took root”, the report said.
Police did not pursue a “wider investigation” into what was going on at the hospital and instead focused on the actions of Dr Barton.
In 2010, the General Medical Council 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.
Several documents reviewed by the panel referred to the Shipman case.
However the Rt Rev James Jones, who led the inquiry, said events at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital were distinct, because they showed a “failure of the institution”.