Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said:

“It is deeply shocking to read the conclusions of Bishop James Jones’s review, that the lives of hundreds of people were cut short by one doctor’s inappropriate use of drugs. We have heard of many instances of poor care over the years, but to shorten the lives of patients represents the very worst betrayal of patients that any doctor can commit.

“The scale of the failures and the culture at Gosport War Memorial Hospital is in some ways even more appalling. The report makes clear that leaders, clinicians and nurses at the hospital were all aware of what was happening, but that the failure to act ran from top to bottom.

“One pressing question must be: could the same thing happen again today? Although the NHS has made progress in recent years, it is hard to feel confident that failings of this sort are impossible in today’s health service. Patients across the country are already anxious about a possible stay in hospital for themselves or their loved ones due to the pressures facing the NHS. Doctors are some of the most trusted professionals in the country – and rightly so. But today’s findings will undeniably cause doubt, concern and anxiety for patients who will already be nervous about a health service creaking under the most intense strain it has faced in decades.

“We also need honesty about the use of opioids as pain control. Could there be other instances of over-ready use of opioids? Equally, we need to remember that opioids are a legitimate and valuable part of palliative and end of life care when used properly – the consequences of today’s dreadful revelations must not be allowed to interfere with providing appropriate and compassionate care to patients who are in pain.

“Today however we should pay tribute to the tenacity and determination of the families who stood by their belief that things were not as they should be, even when the NHS was telling them otherwise. Bishop Jones’s compassionate foreword to his report rightly centres on the toll these events have taken on them, and the effects of such serious betrayals of trust, first in the improper care itself and then again in the way the NHS closed ranks against them. When patients and their families raise concerns in future they must be properly listened to and given full and open answers.”

Sir Robert Francis QC, President of the Patients Association, said: “Once again we hear of families whose concerns about the care of their loved ones were ignored in this case for years. Once again we hear of a lack of transparency which left the truth hidden.

"Now we need to recognise the ordeal of those families by ensuring that their demand for justice is acted on, and that in future when serious concerns are raised they are properly examined in investigations in which patients and families can play a full part.”