GP jailed over Sheffield patient’s death

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An out-of-hours doctor has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for manslaughter for failing to send a seriously ill man to hospital.

Dr Bala Kovvali ignored classic signs of diabetes-related poisonous acids building up in 42-year-old Andrew Fellows’ body, a court heard.

Instead of dialling 999, the on-call locum said he was depressed and had a headache and should see his own doctor the next day.

Less than nine hours later Mr Fellows died from diabetic ketoacidosis.

A test, which takes less than a minute, would have alerted the GP to raised blood-sugar levels and it is ‘virtually certain’ Mr Fellows would have survived with an insulin injection and rehydration, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

Jailing him Judge Roger Keen said: “It was criminal negligence and a wholly preventable death followed.”

The GP was based in India but flew to Britain to work every summer for doctors’ deputising service Primecare.

He was arrested in the US and extradited after a Sheffield coroner adjourned an inquest into the death for police investigations.

Kovvali, aged 64, admitted causing Mr Fellows’ death by gross negligence.

Michael Burrows QC, prosecuting, said Mr Fellows, of Handsworth, had no history of diabetes but suffered from anxiety and depression.

The week before his death he became restless and began drinking huge quantities of water. Both he and his mother Brenda thought he had sunstroke.

Mrs Fellows called Primecare at 5.50pm on June 4, 2009.

Dr Kovvali arrived at 9.13pm. Mrs Fellows, who expected her son to be taken to hospital, had even packed a bag for him.

Mrs Fellows asked if he might be diabetic but Dr Kovvali shook his head.

“According to Mrs Fellows, Dr Kovvali did not have any equipment with him and did not examine her son.”

Mrs Fellows gave him an ice cube at 1am because he was so dehydrated. She returned at 6am to find him dead.

Professor of Forensic Medicine Ian Wall said Mr Fellows had ‘classic’ symptoms of ketoacidosis’.

Professor Robert Tattersall, a retired professor of clinical diabetes, said the GP’s records were ‘grossly deficient’ and he should have measured blood sugar.