GPs warned over patients seeking drugs

Doctors in Cork and Kerry have been warned in recent weeks to be “on guard” for new patients seeking sedatives and tranquillisers.

The warning was issued in both counties after a Cork city GP suddenly closed his practice to go on sick leave.

Cathedral Rd-based GP David Murphy gave a voluntary undertaking to the High Court and Medical Council this week that he would not prescribe benzodiazepines and opiates in advance of an judgment by the Medical Council, which is investigating Dr Murphy’s prescribing policy

GPs, accident and emergency staff, gardaí, and members of the local drugs taskforce attended an emergency meeting after Dr Murphy informed the HSE that he would no longer be practicing at his northside clinic.

Following the meeting, a letter was sent to all South Doc GPs informing them that an unusual prescription pattern had been detected, and that patients not attached to their own surgeries who sought such drugs should be encouraged to return to their own GP.

South Doc chairman Andrew Crosbie yesterday said “there were a number of incidents” whereby patients sought such prescriptions in the days after Dr Murphy’s clinic closed, but said they “were very minor”.

Dr Crosbie said GPs were pleased that “alternatives” were put in place for Dr Murphy’s patients. At the end of last week, another northside surgery, the Hollyhill Medical Centre, took over Dr Murphy’s GMS list, which comprised of several hundred patients.

Dr Murphy could not be contacted yesterday.

GPs can practice with restrictions but it is not known whether Dr Murphy intends practicing medicine again in the short term.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said yesterday: “The HSE has put in place a locum for Dr Murphy’s medical card patients and this was communicated to patients last Thursday. The normal arrangements for locums accessing medical card patient files apply to patients of Dr Murphy and arrangements have been made in this regard.”

Much effort was made by the HSE and community gardaí since the May bank holiday weekend to ensure Dr Murphy’s patients were aware of the clinic’s closure.

Community gardaí and public health workers were liaising with Dr Murphy’s patients to ensure they had their health needs met before the Hollyhill practice took over the client list.


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