Seven accused at GMC over prescriptions for heroin addicts

Seven doctors at a private clinic for drug addicts were accused of serious professional misconduct and failing to exercise care for their patients at a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing yesterday.

The six men and one woman are alleged to have misprescribed medicine in excessive amounts and the wrong types, as well as providing irresponsible combinations of drugs such as methadone and rohypnol. The doctors are also accused of failing to ensure prescribed drugs would not end up being sold on the black market.

The case relates to the treatment of 16 patients at the private Stapleford Centre Clinic, which has sites in Belgravia in central London and Stapleford Tawney in Essex. Dr Colin Brewer, 63, registered at Eccleston Street, central London, and founder of the clinic, faces the majority of the allegations relating to his controversial treatment of 13 patients and a further charge of interfering with potential witnesses. The hearing is expected to last until mid-January.

A further six doctors, some of whom no longer work at the clinic, are also accused in the case. They are Anthony Haines, 75, Hugh Kindness, 66, Nicolette Mervitz, 30, Martin O'Rawe, in his mid-40s, Ronald Tovey, 47, and Timothy Willocks, 47.

Andrew Collender QC, GMC counsel, told the hearing: "The responsibility and appropriate care of drug users accommodates some range of differing views but that is not to say that this is a field of medicine without boundaries. This inquiry is not about differences of opinion in the responsible debate about the treatment of drug users. This inquiry is about failure by these doctors to exercise care in certain specific respects."

The panel heard one patient, known as RF, was treated at the clinic between 1990 and 2003. When he first arrived he had being using heroin since he was 16, was injecting between half and three quarters of a gram every day, and claimed to be using 30mg of oral methadone daily. His doctor's initial prescription gave him almost double the dose daily and was gradually upped to 400mg of opiate medication a day.

Mr Collender said aspects of the treatment were "inappropriate and irresponsible", including a failure to establish the patient was able to pay legitimately for treatment, and was taking the prescriptions.He added: "The treatment he received turned a man at 23 with an unremarkable habit into one who at 13 years later was truly remarkable for the number of different drugs prescribed and the dosages of those drugs."

The hearing was adjourned until today.

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