Friday, 29 January 2010

Fury as doctor who gave lethal drugs to 12 elderly patients is allowed to carry on prescribing

By Sam Greenhill
Last updated at 12:59 PM on 29th January 2010
"With mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman in mind, police have been quick to investigate complaints about possible rogue doctors."

Families erupted in fury today as a doctor who gave lethal drugs to 12 elderly patients was given the green light to carry on prescribing.

Relatives of the dead pensioners sat gobsmacked as GP Jane Barton escaped being struck off the medical register despite being found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

The outraged sons and daughters stormed out of the General Medical Council (GMC) hearing in Central London in disgust, demanding a public inquiry.

In an unprecedented move, even the GMC's chief executive expressed astonishment that his own disciplinary panel had failed to end the doctor's career.

Iain Wilson, whose 74-year-old father Robert Wilson went into hospital with a broken shoulder but died of an overdose of painkillers, yelled at the panel members: 'You should hang your head in shame.'

Another relative shouted: 'You have done nothing at all to protect the public.'

Dr Barton's frail patients had been given cocktails of painkillers six times the recommended dose to 'keep them quiet' and lapsed into drug-induced comas, it was claimed.

She told one patient 'it won't be long now' after giving her a massive dose of painkillers, the GMC heard.

The two wards she ran, at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire, became known as 'the end of the line'.

It has taken the GMC 12 years to decide on the case since questions were first raised about why patients in Dr Barton's care were dying.

At one stage, police examined 92 deaths, although no criminal charges were ever brought. Then an inquest last year into ten of the pensioners' deaths concluded five of them had died after being given excessive doses of morphine.

However, Dr Barton always remained free to practice, subject to certain restrictions on prescribing diamorphine, and has been working at the Forton Medical Centre in Gosport.

The GMC's fitness to practice panel found Dr Barton guilty of 'multiple instances of serious professional misconduct' and said her behaviour was 'inappropriate, potentially hazardous and or not in the best interests' of her patients.

Yet instead of striking her off, the panel decided to allow her to continue practicing, subject to 11 restrictions including banning her from prescribing opiates by injection for three years. She is allowed to prescibe opiates in other forms, provided she keeps a written 'log'.

Panel chairman Andrew Reid said: 'Dr Barton failed to recognise the limits of her professional competence.'

Full article can be read in Daily Mail
Related link:
You have to be a mass killer like Harold Shipman before you lose your job in the NHS