A fourth criminal investigation has been launched into the deaths of hundreds of patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital.

The probe, which was announced by Kent Police, will focus on patients who died at the Hampshire hospital between 1987 and 2001. 

A team of officers and staff from across the Eastern Policing Region has been reviewing the case and assessing if there is enough new evidence to launch a criminal investigation since the Gosport Independent Panel report was published in June.

The panel found more than 450 people died from prescriptions made “without medical justification” after the use of painkillers resulted in an “institutionalised practice of shortening patients’ lives”.

Three previous criminal investigations into 92 of the deaths, carried out by Hampshire Constabulary, have not led to any charge being brought. 

Assistant chief constable Nick Downing, head of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Now that we have launched a full investigation we will be arranging to meet with the families on a one-to-one basis and invite them to give statements on their own experiences with the hospital, as it is their accounts about the loss of their loved ones that will help put the medical assessments we have into context.

“This is a highly complex and emotive case that some family members have been living with for more than 30 years, and I would like to thank them for their continuing patience and understanding during this process.”