'Dr Opiate' who oversaw 650 hospital deaths claims she was just a 'hard-working doctor' in 'difficult circumstances'

Jane Barton, a former clinical assistant at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, spoke for the first time today following a bombshell report last week which said there was a "culture of shortening lives" at the hospital.

The report found Dr Barton, dubbed "Dr Opiate", oversaw 656 patient deaths at the hospital in Hampshire, as part of a regime of giving drugs without medical justification.

It found there was a reckless "disregard for human life" between 1989 and 2000 at the hospital and that patients who were viewed as a "nuisance" were given drugs on syringe drivers which killed them within days.

The report's findings have led to calls for an inquiry from families.

Dr Barton today claimed she was a "doctor doing the best for her patients".

The 70-year-old appeared outside her £700,000 Gosport home with her husband Tim where the statement was read out on her behalf.

The couple are believed to have spent the past week on the Spanish island of Menorca before returning home.

In a move likely to anger relatives of those who died at the hospital while under her care, Mr Barton went on to ask for privacy on his wife’s behalf at what described as “this difficult time”.

Mr Barton said: "Jane would like to thank her family, friends, colleagues, former patients and the many others for their continued support and loyalty through this protracted inquiry.

"She has always maintained she was a hardworking, dedicated doctor – doing the 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 and she will be making no further comments."

Responding to Dr Opiate's statement today Bridget Reeves, granddaughter of 88-year-old Elsie Devine, told the Sun Online: "My grandmother died unnecessarily at the hands of Jane Barton. It is time that the voices of our families were heard in the courts."

Gillian Kimbley’s husband Robert Wilson, 75, died in 1998 at the hospital.

Gillian, 72, said: "I suppose she’s too frightened to speak to the media. I don’t think she’s got the guts to say anything."

Hampshire Police said on Thursday it is to hand over its investigations to another force, after a damning report found it failed to properly examine multiple reports by families and whistleblowers that doctors were giving patients dangerously high levels of opioid drugs.

Hampshire Police were criticised by the panel after three investigations they held between 1998 and 2010 failed to lead to any prosecutions.

So far, the only person to face disciplinary action has been Dr Barton, who was found guilty of failings in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999.

She was quizzed under caution on suspicion of murder in 2006 – which she described as being "repugnant and deeply distressing".

But no prosecutions were brought and she was not struck off the medical register, choosing to retire after the findings.

She previously told police: “I’ve always been concerned to treat patients humanely and lawfully.”

The report said an "awareness" the deaths "might be due to 'another Shipman'" had "cast a shadow over how concerns at the hospital were viewed".

GP Harold Shipman was found by an inquiry to have killed 250 people.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs that police and the Crown Prosecution Service would examine material in the report to consider their next steps and "whether criminal charges should now be brought".

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