An investigation into the care of elderly people at Gosport War Memorial Hospital has been launched by the Commission for Health Improvement following the deaths of two patients in 1998.

Concerns were raised three years ago by the members of the public over the administration of drugs at the hospital. A police investigation was launched into the first death, but the case was dropped in July.

The second death resulted in a complaint to the health service ombudsman - though Portsmouth Healthcare trust, which runs the hospital, said it was ‘exonerated’.

With police and ombudsman enquiries completed, CHI decided to conduct an investigation, and a CHI team will spend a week at the hospital carrying out interviews and visiting clinical areas.The public will also be invited to give accounts of their experience of care for older people. The investigation will centre on arrangements for administering drugs, the clarity of responsibility for patient care and the transfer arrangements with other local hospitals.

Trust chief executive Max Millett said he hoped CHI could reassure people about the care provided at Gosport and progress in developing services made over the past three years, as well as providing opportunities for improving care.

‘The trust has full confidence in the staff who work at Gosport War Memorial Hospital and in the excellent services they provide. We will be anxious to support them during the review process to ensure they can contribute to it fully, ’ he said.

CHI chief executive Peter Homa said the patients at the hospital were ‘elderly and particularly vulnerable’.

Meanwhile, CHI has agreed to a request from junior health minister Lord Hunt to fast-track its review of St Helens and Knowsley trust following an inquiry into the care of former patient Michael Abram, who was acquitted of attempted murder after an attack on former Beatle George Harrison. The report identified failings with communication and with integration of mental health services.