THE family of a woman who died in the care of a doctor later linked to hundreds of deaths has asked a Scots regulator why he dismissed their concerns.
Leading churchman Graham Forbes was part of a two-man General Medical Council (GMC) panel who investigated allegations about Dr Jane Barton’s conduct at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in 2002 but cleared her of wrongdoing.
Last month, the latest in a series of inquiries linked the care she supervised to the deaths of 456 patients. Another 200 may have had their lives shortened by their treatment.
Reverend Forbes, a priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church and former Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, investigated a complaint from the family of Elsie Devine, who died at the hospital under the care of Dr Barton aged 88 in 1999.
Her daughter, Ann Reeves, yesterday asked why Rev Forbes and his fellow “screener” (who has not been named in the documents) cleared Dr Barton and what qualifications he had to investigate medical care.
The two-member panel, including Dr Forbes, cleared Dr Barton of any wrongdoing.
Eight years later, in 2010, the GMC found Dr Barton guilty of “multiple instances of serious professional misconduct” following more complaints and allegations.
Last month, an independent inquiry found that 456 patients died and possibly 200 more had their lives shortened because of treatment at the medical centre on the south-coast of England.
Now Ann is demanding answers as to why the original GMC panel failed.
Ann said: “I’ve been waiting a long time to find out who these screeners were and why they reached the decision to clear Dr Barton.”
Subsequent probes into Elsie’s death have found she was inappropriately given doses of opioids at Gosport before she passed away.
Among 43,000 documents released as part of last month’s public inquiry are details of Rev Forbes involvement as a GMC screener.
The documents show that in 2010 both the screeners were asked if they had any objections to revealing who they were to Ms Reeves. Rev Forbes, who is currently the chair of Scottish charity regulator OSCR, said he didn’t have a problem, but the decision should be based on both the screeners’ wishes.
The other medical screener refused. The GMC then refused to give out the names to Ms Reeves.
Ms Reeves said: “There’s still a lot of questions about this case and I will carry on fighting for justice.
“It makes you wonder why people like Mr Forbes were thought qualified to pass judgement on doctors.”
Reverend Forbes holds a number of high-profile roles in public life and was a member of the GMC for 12 years.
He worked as a lay screener and would be asked to approve decisions reached by medically qualified screeners over complaints about doctors.
He is also a former HM Lay Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, member of the Parole Board and chair of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
He is the Chair of OSCR, he is Chair of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, Chair of Edinburgh Napier University’s Court, and Chair of the Committee of Scottish University Chairs.
Speaking from his home in Pittenweem near Anstruther in Fife, Mr Forbes said he could not remember Ms Reeve’s original complaint. He said: “It’s impossible for me to say without the papers in front of me. You need to speak with the GMC.”
The GMC said the 2002 complaint was considered on the basis of available information and expert reports and the decision was that it did not in itself meet the threshold for a full investigation.
A spokeswoman added: “However, when we received further information from the police in 2005 as their investigation developed, we were able to revisit the allegations.
“They were subsequently included in the case the GMC made against Dr Barton.”