Medics 'can still misuse drugs'

Dr Harold Shipman was found guilty of murdering 15 patients during the 1990s

Dr Harold Shipman was found guilty of murdering 15 patients during the 1990s

First published in National News © by

Medics are still able to misuse controlled drugs a decade after the Shipman Inquiry , the health regulator has said.

The inquiry into killer doctor Harold Shipman called for more stringent rules surrounding drugs that have the potential to be misused b ut the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it was still seeing a number of health professionals "taking controlled drugs without permission and supplying them to others illegally".

Shipman was jailed for life in January 2000 for murdering 15 patients while working in Hyde, Greater Manchester, over a three-year period in the 1990s. But the full extent of his murderous career only became clear during Dame Janet Smith's independent inquiry, which found that the GP probably killed between 215 and 260 people.

He murdered his victims with lethal injections of diamorphine - the clinical name for heroin. He had stockpiled vast amounts of the drug by falsely prescribing it as a painkiller for dying patients.

In response to the inquiry, the Government agreed to new regulations to control diamorphine and other controlled drugs that have the potential to be misused .

While the CQC, which is responsible for ensuring that organisations in England safely manage controlled drugs, said that "significant improvements" have been made in the 10 years since the inquiry, it said that a small number of medics are still able to misuse drugs.

Part of the stricter controls set up after the inquiry involved the creation of controlled drugs accountable officers. I n its latest report, CQC said these officers play a "critical role" in the management and safe use of controlled drugs but "many are under resourced".

It said that NHS England controlled drug accountable officers must be adequately resourced to carry out their roles and responsibilities with regard to controlled drugs.

Professor Steve Field, CQC's chief inspector of general practice, said: "Significant progress has been made in order to improve the management of controlled drugs since the Shipman Inquiry 10 years ago.

"However, more needs to be done in terms of improving systems that can enable secure gathering, sharing and recording of intelligence about controlled drugs concerns.

"We are still seeing examples of a very small number of healthcare professionals taking controlled drugs without permission and supplying them to others illegally or taking them in order to misuse substances themselves. This is why the role of the controlled drugs accountable officers and local intelligence networks is key."

Clare Howard, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer and co-chair of the NHS England National Controlled Drugs Group, said: "Controlled drug accountable officers have worked very hard over the last year to ensure that robust local systems are in place for the safer management and use of controlled drugs.

"We are confident that further progress will be made in the next year to ensure that arrangements across the country are working well and consistently."

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