This site is intended for health professionals only

Patients left in “drug-induced comas”


A UK disciplinary panel has heard that a doctor accused of failings in her treatment of 12 patients overprescribed painkillers and sedatives leaving elderly patients in “drug-induced comas”.

The inquiry follows the deaths of 12 patients at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire between January 1996 and November 1999.

While at the hospital they were under the care of Dr Jane Barton, who worked on the hospital wards which provided longer-term care for elderly patients who expected to be rehabilitated and sent home.

Although many of the patients treated by Dr Barton had never been given opiates before, she prescribed drugs, including diamorphine, which allowed nursing staff to massively increase the dosage if they saw fit.

The doctor has already admitted the dose range for 10 patients was too wide, but she is also accused of “terribly inadequate” note taking and failing to explain why she had given patients certain drugs.

Representing the General Medical Council (GMC), Tom Kark said: “There was, we say, a series of failures which led to patients being overmedicated and unnecessarily anaesthetised.

“The failures include a lack of proper assessment before opiates were prescribed and an irresponsible method of prescribing opiates even though these were drugs which were capable of ending life.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

General Medical Council

Your comments: (terms & conditions apply)

“It is a strong debating point as to whether a full clinical pharmacy service to this hospital would have prevented the events that took place. Although this was several years ago PCTs are taking great risks in community hospitals at the moment by not ensuring that providers have such a pharmacy service and concentrating on supply only. Another Gosport is likely because of this and this may be with opiates or with other drugs, eg antipsychotics.” – David Green, Colchester, UK

Latest Issue

Be in the know
Subscribe to Hospital Pharmacy Europe newsletter and magazine