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'Overworked' pharmacist's fatal error.

An "overworked" pharmacist made a tragic error and gave out the wrong pills to a grandmother who became ill within minutes and later died.

Martin White, 45, of Muckamore, County Antrim, admitted supplying the wrong prescription drugs to Ethna Walsh, 67, in February 2014 and was given a four month jail term, suspended for two years.

Antrim Crown Court heard Mrs Walsh had gone to Antrim’s Clear pharmacy and handed in a prescription for a drug called prednisolone but White mistakenly picked up a box of propranolol.

Back at home, Mrs Walsh's husband Joe gave her some of the tablets but a prosecution lawyer said that within minutes, she had difficulty breathing.

Her husband immediately phoned for an ambulance and she was taken to hospital, where she later died.

The court heard that White told police he must have mistakenly picked up the propranolol instead of the prednisolone as the two boxes have similar branding and were side-by-side on the shelf but he claimed he had carried out the required checks under the Pharmacy Standard Operation Procedures.

Mr White had also complained about working in a cramped space and had recently seen his GP about his feelings of low mood, tiredness and fatigue.

An expert who investigated what had happened said accuracy checks should have been carried out but were not, and this had led to the tragic error.

However, the expert deemed that White was guilty only of poor professional performance as opposed to professional misconduct.

A defence lawyer, who said that Mr White was a man of unblemished character, added that, since the tragedy he had been too frightened to return to work because he felt racked with guilt and had been receiving psychiatric help. The tragic consequences of his mistake had left White "destroyed with remorse.”

He said that White was "an ordinary man who struggled because he worked too hard, often up to 60 hours a week, always on call. This is his first mistake after almost a quarter of a century of employment."