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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Plan to tighten drug procedures
Harold Shipman
The Shipman inquiry criticised the drug prescription rules
A tightening of the prescription rules for controlled drugs has been proposed by ministers to prevent a repeat of the Harold Shipman killings.

The Shipman inquiry called for changes to the procedures after the GP was able to obtain large amounts of diamorphine without being detected.

Under the plans, chemists will be able to ask for identification from people collecting prescriptions.

And prescriptions by single GPs will also be able to be scrutinised.

Shipman, who committed suicide in January this year, killed between 230 and 275 people over a 23-year period.

Diamorphine - Medical heroin is used to relieve severe pain
Methadone - Used as a pain relief and to treat heroin addiction
Temazepam - Used to treat insomnia
Barbiturates - Group of drugs commonly used as sedatives
Buprenorphine - Powerful painkilling drug

The joint Home Office-Department of Health paper said: "One of the main loopholes Shipman exploited was through collecting controlled drugs on behalf of the patient for whom he had prescribed them and then diverting the drugs to his own use."

Dame Janet Smith's inquiry into the Shipman murders found there was a need for "modernisation and rationalisation" of the controlled drugs system.

Her report concluded: "It was apparent that the regulatory framework governing the use of controlled drugs had not operated as it should."

Other proposals include a shortening in the prescription expiry date for controlled drugs from 91 to 28.

All healthcare providers would also be required to make a declaration of the amount of controlled drugs they hold each year, and operate agreed measures to safeguard the drugs.


Home Office minister Paul Goggins said the measures were designed "to ensure that patients are not put at risk by outdated practices whilst not compromising the legitimate use of controlled drugs by health professionals.

"We are committed to ensuring all patients have safe access to the care they need and I believe that the proposals within this consultation will ensure that controlled drugs are managed in a professional and responsible fashion."

Dame Janet's inquiry found there had been virtually no revision of the legislation relating to controlled drugs since the early 1970s, and the requirements relating to controlled drug prescriptions and record-keeping were out of date.

Lynsey Balmer, head of professional ethics at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it was important to have tighter safeguards.

But added: "Strengthened controls must be balanced with the need to ensure that patients can access the controlled drugs necessary for their clinical care."

Shipman chemist charges dropped
21 Mar 05 |  Manchester
Shipman chemist 'failed public'
21 Feb 05 |  Manchester
Shipman inquiry drug rules call
15 Jul 04 |  Health
Probe into Shipman's junior days
01 Apr 04 |  Manchester

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