Dr Andrew Holton – UK – 23 June 2005

A DOCTOR who turned hundreds of young patients into drugged ‘ zombies’ could be struck off after 100 new alleged victims came forward.

The children’s families queued outside the offices of the General Medical Council yesterday to hand in letters of complaint against Dr Andrew Holton.

They want him to be charged with misconduct and struck off the medical register so he can never practise on children again.

Dr Holton, 52, wrongly prescribed huge doses of mindnumbing epilepsy drugs to about 700 children with symptoms including headaches, bad behaviour, clumsiness and falling behind at school. Most had lesser problems, or were not ill at all.

Hospital chiefs in Leicester last week offered a ‘heartfelt’ apology and face a £10million compensation bill, but the GMC – the medical profession’s watchdog – has cleared Dr Holton to continue practising.

Parents paraded placards outside its offices in London reading: ‘GMC – Gross Medical Cover-up’ and ‘GMC – the NHS apologised for Dr Holton’s mistakes, where’s yours? Strike him off now!’

They handed in 100 letters, each one a formal complaint from an alleged child victim of Dr Holton, to the GMC’s Director of Fitness to Practise, Paul Philip, who has a duty to investigate them.

Yesterday, the GMC finally agreed that it would charge Dr Holton with misconduct if it decides there is a case to answer once the new complaints-have been considered. If found guilty, he could be struck off. Until now the GMC has considered only retraining and ‘rehabilitating’ him.

The charge would also mean his case being heard in public, whereas his present ‘performance’ hearings have been behind closed doors.

Trevor Parr, 55, a Leicester solicitor whose son was treated by Dr Holton, said: ‘He turned Peter into a zombie. He misdiagnosed him with epilepsy and prescribed him ever-increasing doses of powerful drugs to the point where he was simply asleep all the time.

‘It is absolutely incredible and scandalous that the GMC allow this man to continue practising.

‘I have been to hell and back, and my son has now been offered compensation, but it is other families I am worried for – they’ve let this doctor loose to work with kids.

‘He has to be stopped. There can be no public confidence in the GMC unless they act. It’s ridiculous – they say they are there to protect patients, yet even while the hospital where he worked is paying out money to his victims, the GMC haven’t even considered striking him off.’ Dr Holton, who is married with two sons, joined Leicester Royal Infirmary in 1990 and was allowed to continue working for 11 years despite a series of warnings about his conduct and performance.

He was eventually suspended in 2001 – six years after the first complaint was raised. An investigation discovered 618 of nearly 2,000 patients had wrongly been diagnosed with epilepsy.

It found the consultant paediatrician had ‘assumed’ the role of paediatric neurologist, despite lacking the additional four years of specialist training.

Yet the GMC later cleared him to continue practising and he is now retraining as a junior doctor at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.

Last week, the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust apologised to the families in court as a judge approved awards for the first 12 victims in what is expected to be a £10million compensation payout.

The Medical Protection Society, representing the doctor, said: ‘Dr Holton is fully co-operating with the private GMC hearing.

As it is a private hearing, it would be inappropriate to comment any further