Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Hospital deaths inquest under way

The Gosport War Memorial Hospital
The deaths happened at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

An inquest has begun into the deaths of 10 elderly hospital patients which were investigated by police.

The deaths happened at Hampshire's Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1996 and 1999.

Although a total of 92 deaths were probed, no prosecutions were brought. Some families have claimed sedatives like diamorphine were used excessively.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw last year allowed an inquest to open into 10 of the deaths.

The Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Coroner opened the inquest into the deaths of Leslie Pittock, Elsie Lavender, Ruby Lake, Robert Wilson, Enid Spurgeon, Elsie Devine, Helena Service, Arthur [Brian] Cunningham, Sheila Gregory and Geoffrey Packman on Wednesday.

The inquest is being heard in front of a jury.

Hampshire Constabulary referred the results of its inquiry in relation to some of the deaths to the Crown Prosecution Service, which later decided not to prosecute.

An inquiry was also held into the deaths by the Commission for Health Improvement, which criticised prescribing practices at the hospital.

The government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, also commissioned a clinical audit to examine death rates at the hospital in September 2002.

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