Dewsbury doctor trial update - relatives of Batley patients surprised at rapid deterioration

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RELATIVES of two elderly patients who died after pain relief was allegedly signed off by a GP who was preoccupied with surfing the internet told a court they where shocked to see such a rapid deterioration in their health.

Rajendra Kokkarne, 37, denies the manslaughter by gross negligence of Beryl Barber, 78, and Eric Watson, 86.

Prosecutors claim he gave 10 times the normal starting dose of morphine sulphate and that before and after he prescribed the medication he was surfing the web using his practice computer.

The victims were residents of the Charlton Centre in Batley – a residential care home for people suffering Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In a statement read to Leeds Crown Court on Thursday, Mrs Barber’s daughter Claire Gill said: “I received a telephone call from the home during her last week saying that she had taken a turn for the worse.

“I stayed with her for an hour-and-a-half and she was unresponsive.

“She wasn’t talking and the following day I went down and stayed with her for an hour. I was shocked by her appearance, she looked drawn and was laying down with her eyes closed taking shallow breaths.

“About 8.30am the following morning I received a call from my brother to say that she had died. I was very shocked as I didn’t expect mum to die.”

Eric Watson’s step daughter, Sandra Hooley, visited him regularly at the home in Carlinghow Hill.

Her statement read: “I was told that he had been given morphine to help make him comfortable.

“We stayed with him until around 1pm before going for something to eat. At around 5pm we were called to say that he was breathing his last.

“The following day, I was told that he had died and that there would be a police investigation.”

Mr Watson and Mrs Barber died of morphine poisoning, after Kokkarane, of Fulmar Way, Worksop, prescribed morphine sulphate – a potent pain relief drug – after hearing on the telephone of their conditions by a nurse at the Charlton Centre.

He was working at the Victoria Medical Centre in Dewsbury.

Mrs Barber had painful ulcers on her foot and elsewhere, while Mr Watson had a urinary infection and mouth ulcers.

The nurse in charge of the ward when Mrs Barber died also gave evidence on Thursday.

Silvia Hadden said she had never known controlled drugs to be prescribed over the phone without the doctor seeing the patient, nor had she known a patient be prescribed morphine at 20/1 concentration at that stage in their care.

“If I had seen that then I would certainly have raised a concern,” she told the court.

“I have never even seen morphine at that concentration. Maybe in hospitals or other care homes they may use it at that strength but I’ve never seen it.”

When asked if she could vouch for the other nurses at the home, Mrs Hadden, who has been a nurse for 35 years, said: “They were not all long term nurses but they will have benefited from the same training that I have had.”

The trial continues.