A Tesco pharmacist who gave the wrong tablets to a grandmother who collapsed just 10 minutes after taking them wept as she gave evidence to a coroner today.(Wed) Elizabeth Lee, a locum chemist, gave 72-year-old Carmel Sheller beta-blockers instead of anti-biotics and steroids which her doctor had prescribed.

Lee, who was given a suspended prison sentence for the error, was working a 10-hour shift during which she did not take a break. when she made the error.

The inquest - which was held at Windsor Guildhall - heard that 10 minutes after Mrs Sheller took the pills, she became ill, lost consciousness, fluid started running out of her nose and her eyes rolled backwards.

She died days later, although a post mortem examination showed it was not as a result of the pills mix-up at the Tesco in Dedworth,Windsor.

A weeping Mrs Lee said: "It was a very busy pharmacy so it was not possible to have a long period of time, say 20 minutes or half an hour for a break.If I sat in the pharmacy while I had a break it was understandable if staff would interrupt me for help." Asked by Berkshire East Corner Peter Bedford, if she could think of any reason for the error, she replied: "I know that very often in any dispensary there can be distractions and this was a busy one.People can ask to speak to the pharmacist over the counter when they are busy but there is nothing specific I know of." Mrs Lee said there was nothing wrong with her mental state, eyesight or health on the day of the error.

Earlier in the inquest, the coroner heard that the pharmacy manager at the Tesco store was on maternity leave at the time of the mix-up and had not been replaced.

Tesco area pharmacy manager Karl Von Molendorff also claimed it was up to individual staff to ensure they took adequate rest breaks to stay fresh.

Mrs Sheller who lived in Windsor was suffering from lung cancer at the time of her death but was still active and looked after house-bound husband Anthony while receiving visits from her four children and nine grandchildren.

In a statement read out by Mr Bedford, her GP Dr Natasha Price revealed Mrs Sheller suffered from a number of serious illnesses and said she correctly prescribed the drugs which led to her collapse.

She added: "There was nothing I could see that showed it was likely that Mrs Sheller would collapse." The hearing continues.

For the full story see Friday's Royal Borough Observer