THE pharmacy which wrongly gave medication intended for those suffering from diabetes to a customer – causing her death – has apologised and said it has been saddened by the tragic outcome of its error.
Grandmother-of-five Dawn Britton, 62, of Bristol, was given tablets which reduce blood sugar levels despite never having suffered from diabetes. She was later found in a deeply unconscious state at her home by her son after taking them.
Ms Britton died in hospital the following month, and an inquest last week concluded she had died from hypoxia (a lack of oxygen), caused by hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), as a result of a mistakenly being given the supply of gliclazide tablets as a non-diabetic patient.
The tablets were dispensed by the Jhoots Pharmacy in Pool Road, Bristol, by a locum pharmacist.
The matter has made headline news in many national newspapers this week, including the Daily Mail, Daily Express, and The Daily Telegraph, and comes as Hudgell Solicitors is acting on behalf of Ms Britton’s devastated family, citing the failure to ‘exercise diligence’ in the preparation and provision of her medication.
A spokesman for J Hoots said: “A dispensing error occurred at our Pool Road Pharmacy in Bristol on 2nd August 2013. Everyone at Jhoots is very saddened by this tragic event. We wish to say how sorry we are for what has happened. We do not wish to prejudice any further investigations by commenting further at this time.”
Despite police investigations, nobody has yet been held responsible for Ms Britton’s death.
She should have been given her regular medication of prednisolone tablets, a form of steroids which she had long taken to control her Crohn’s Disease and breathing difficulties, but was instead given the tables which reduce blood sugar levels.
Ms Britton’s daughter Tammy Haskins 40, said her mother was ‘sharp and intelligent’, and was organised when taking her medication. The box had been wrongly labelled, leading to her believing she was taking her regular tablets.
“She knew when she needed her tablets and how many she had to take. The problem was these tablets for diabetes looked very similar to those she normally took. They were the same colour and a similar size,” she said.
“When you are given medication by a pharmacist, especially one you have had the same prescription from for some time, you don’t expect it to be wrong. You trust them to get it right.
“My mum has lost her life because somebody simply failed to check the medication they were giving out was correct. It is inexcusable. She loved life, and her grandchildren in particular. They couldn’t leave her house without being given something to take home. She was always handing out gifts.”
“Nothing can bring my mother back now, but the least I hope comes from this is a tightening of procedures across the board so that it doesn’t happen again. Perhaps they can colour code the boxes, as they all appear to the same. Mistakes shouldn’t happen, but they clearly do, and it costs lives.
“Surely there has to be strict procedures put in place now to prevent this from ever happening again.”
For Tammy’s brother Lee, 41, who lived with his mother, attending the inquest would have been too much after a year in which he has found no answers to how the tragedy could ever have been allowed to happen.
He found his mother unconscious on the bed of their home on October 23 last year, and had to go through the trauma of firstly trying to revive her himself, before watching paramedics continue to work on her in the road before she was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
“It was absolutely awful,” he said. “I just saw her on the bed unconscious and I tried to revive her. Had I attended the inquest I would have lost my temper. We were told it was not in the public interest to prosecute, but how can people be allowed to get away with killing our mother. That’s what it amounts to.
“I work as a gas meter reader, I am expected to spot any problems at customers’ houses. If I checked a meter and then it blew up the next day, I’d be held accountable. Yet here, our mum has been killed, and it’s simply swept under the carpet. It’s disgraceful.
“She would be here today and she has been taken away from us.”
Mr Britton said his mother had been in good health and spirits before she died, having been to Blackpool to celebrate her 62nd birthday with he and her grandson Flynn, nine, just a couple of weeks earlier.
“Now all I have is memories. Thankfully we had been to Blackpool for her birthday just before and had a really nice time. She loved it there, we played bingo and she spent time with my son at the seaside. I’d never have thought she’d be gone a matter of weeks later though,” Mr Britton added.
“Being alone is so hard. She loved craft-making and used to sit up on a night making cards, and she’d leave me notes around the house for when I got up in the morning. I’m still gutted now. Even to this day I can’t sleep. It is always on my mind. Flynn misses her terribly too. It’s hard enough for us to understand, let alone him.”