The murders committed by Dr Harold Shipman could have been prevented by the medical authorities years earlier, the public inquiry into the deaths of 459 of his patients has heard. Dr Shipman was fined for forging prescriptions back in 1976 after becoming addicted to pethidine. Opening the inquiry last week, Caroline Swift QC said that, despite the conviction, the General Medical Council decided to take no further action - a view also adopted by the Home Office.

Shipman is currently serving life for killing 15 of his patients. The inquiry being held in Manchester is unprecedented in NHS and judicial terms. It is expected to last two years and cost several million pounds.