Doncaster mum’s drugs death probe

Rita Wilburn
Rita Wilburn

The death of a Doncaster mum from a drugs overdose has sparked an investigation into how she was being prescribed powerful painkillers by two separate GP surgeries - one of which had not seen her for six years.

Former nurse Rita Wilburn used another name to register at a second practice in Bentley, and detectives are trying to find out who was collecting and using her repeat prescriptions for cocodamol and anti-anxiety tablets.

Her daughter Bethany Wilburn, 29, expressed concern at the amount of medication her mum was being prescribed.

After the inquest into the 55-year-old’s death, Doncaster Coroner Nicola Mundy said she would be writing to the Ransome Practice in Askern Road ‘seeking clarification as to exactly what happened’ to establish when the patient was last seen and what medication she received.

Police are also following up a new line of enquiry about the identity of a mystery man who still tried to claim prescriptions for Mrs Wilburn several months after she died in December 2012.

Det Con Andy Knowles gave evidence that Mrs Wilburn had visited the Ransome Practice and become its patient using her former surname, Herring.

Dr Puvanasundaram Umapathee admitted in a statement he had not seen her since May 2006. An unknown man called the surgery for her prescription in 2013 but was refused.

Mrs Wilburn had been taking painkillers, including morphine, after suffering a series of medical misfortunes.

She lost a leg after a road accident in 2006, her second leg was amputated in 2011 because of circulation problems, and she had her nose removed in 2012 because it was cancerous.

Her sister, Tracy Peacock, said she had become housebound after losing both legs and she suffered a lot of pain, which she managed with morphine, taking a bottle a week and some in tablet form.

Mrs Peacock said her sister had never talked about ending her own life.

“I don’t think she would want to take a drugs overdose because she loved her grandchildren,” she said.

Bethany gave evidence that her mother had also pretended to be going on holiday on one occasion to get more painkillers from her GP at the Arksey Lane practice in Bentley.

Mrs Wilburn was found collapsed on a sofa when her family visited her home in Langar Close, Toll Bar, on December 12 and she died shortly after arriving at hospital.

Police established there were no suspicious circumstances and they found no suicide notes.

Home Office pathologist Dr Philip Lumb gave the cause of death as morphine toxicity exacerbated by heart and liver disease.

The coroner said it was clear Mrs Wilburn suffered a considerable amount of pain and relied heavily on a number of drugs, including morphine, which health professionals had noted.

She concluded Mrs Wilburn died from a drugs overdose but did not intend to take her own life.

Afterwards Bethany said she was ‘concerned’ by what she had heard about the Ransome Practice.

“It doesn’t seem like normal doctors’ practice if they don’t see a patient for six years,” she said. “Hearing this has made it worse for us. I’m not 100 per cent sure what medication mum was getting.

“If someone has been claiming mum’s prescription that sounds like fraud. I am hoping DC Knowles can shed some light on what’s been happening. He’s been great throughout all this.”

A spokesman for NHS England South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw said: “We cannot comment at this stage while the investigation is taking place.”