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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 07:54 GMT
Inquest examines hospital deaths
Hospital ward
Police were alerted by members of staff
Inquests are due to begin on 11 elderly and psychiatric patients who died at a Derby hospital.

The hearings, expected to last eight weeks, will study deaths on a ward at Kingsway Hospital in the 1990s.

Police launched an investigation in 1997 after workers claimed patients had been deliberately deprived of food and water, leading to their deaths.

Three members of hospital staff were suspended in relation to the allegations but no-one was charged.

The inquests, to be held at Pride Park Stadium, will be overseen by retired High Court judge Sir Richard Rougier.

The long investigations have been an ordeal for both the families and staff members concerned
Mike Shewan

The patients were on the hospital's Rowsley Ward and died between 1995 and 1997.

They suffered with illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimers and Parkinson's disease.

Police sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to pursue criminal action.

Derbyshire Mental Health Services NHS Trust is thought to be waiting for the inquests to be held before making a decision on the suspended workers.

Swallowing problems

The Department of Health is also awaiting the results before considering an independent inquiry.

Lawyer Chris Gawne, of Alexander Harris solicitors, who is representing the families of seven patients, said they were anxious to know what kind of treatment had been given.

It was very difficult to judge whether the treatment he was receiving was of an acceptable standard
Mike Smith, son of deceased

Speaking before the inquest, he said nursing staff often indicated to families that it was not safe for patients to be given food and water as a result of swallowing difficulties.

But he said the hearings would look into whether more could have been done to allow food and water to be provided in certain instances.

The 18-bed ward, for elderly male patients suffering long-term illness, closed in 2001.

Mike Smith, whose father, died at the ward, said: "It was very difficult to judge whether the treatment he was receiving was of an acceptable standard."

Mike Shewan, chief executive of Derbyshire Mental Health Services Trust, welcomed the hearing, saying: "The long investigations have been an ordeal for both the families and staff members concerned.

"We can now finally look forward to hearing all the evidence and await the coroner's verdict on how these patients died."


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