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Inquests to open into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Inquests are due to be opened on Thursday, 14 October, 2021 into the deaths of four people who died while in the care of Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Portsmouth.

Posted on 13 October 2021

The inquests into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Reuben David Smith, Eva Isabel Page and Clifford Houghton were granted after their families’ lawyer, Leigh Day partner Emma Jones argued that they had been left without justice or closure following repeated ineffective investigations into hundreds of deaths at the hospital in Gosport, Hampshire.

The four inquests granted will examine the circumstances of the deaths of:

  • Clifford Houghton who died aged 71 after he was admitted to Gosport War Memorial Hospital in February, 1994, for what was meant to be a period of respite. He died on the same day he was given two doses of diamorphine because of “deterioration”. The 2018 review panel concluded that Mr Houghton was given opioids without appropriate clinical indication. His stepdaughter Pamela Byrne believes there is reason to suspect her stepfather died a violent or unnatural death.
  • Dulcie Middleton who died aged 86 in September, 2001, three months after she was admitted to Gosport hospital for rehabilitation following a stroke. Her nephew and daughter, David Wilson and Marjorie Bulbeck, say Mrs Middleton’s treatment at the hospital was neglectful and inhumane, she was not assisted with food and became dehydrated and was denied basic nursing care.
  • Eva Page, 88, who was transferred to Dryad Ward in the Hospital from Queen Alexander (Portsmouth) on 27 February 1998. Mrs Page was prescribed morphine and given her first dose on 2 March 1998 and another dose on 3 March 1998. In addition, she was prescribed Midazolam and received Fentanyl through a skin patch. She died on 3 March 1998. It was concluded in the Report that Mrs Page’s case was a case of opioid usage without appropriate clinical indication.
  • Horace Smith who was first admitted to Gosport Hospital on 30 March 1999, having been transferred from Haslar Hospital. He was 73 years old. On admission to Gosport he was prescribed diamorphine. His was given his first dose on 5 April 1999 and died the following day.

Emma Jones has also written to the Attorney General to ask for a fresh inquests into the deaths of Arthur Denis Brian Cunningham who died aged 79, five days after he was admitted to Gosport War Memorial Hospital on 21 August 1998, Gladys Mabel Richards who was admitted on 17 August 1998 and died on 21 August 1998 and Robert Wilson, a former Petty Officer in the Royal Navy who died in 1998 aged 74 after he was sent to Gosport for recuperation following a broken arm. The families say that these inquests were flawed and ineffective.

All seven families are hoping that the inquests will be joined together into one major Article 2 Hillsborough-style inquest to give account for the deaths of their loved ones and those of many more victims of care at Gosport.

An Article 2 inquest would have a much wider scope than a standard inquest to look at the role of all individuals and institutions involved in the deaths of patients at Gosport.

Leigh Day partner Emma Jones said:

“We welcome opening of the inquests into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Reuben David Smith, Eva Isabel Page and Clifford Houghton and also look forward to a response from the Attorney General to our application for fresh inquests into the deaths of Arthur Cunningham, Gladys Richards and Robert Wilson. We hope this will be the start of a complete, honest, open and thorough investigation into what happened to individuals at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

“In his 2018 report following the independent inquiry into events at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, the Rt Rev James Jones said he expected authorities to address historical concerns that families have carried for over 20 years. We hope that the opening of these inquests is the start of that process.”

The four inquests are due to be opened at Coroner's Court, 1 Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
PO1 2GJ at 9am. Anyone who wishes to attend should contact the Hampshire Coroner’s Office.

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Emma Jones

Emma Jones

Emma runs the team working on the contaminated blood inquiry 

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