Doctor suspended after inquiry into 'mercy killings'

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A doctor has been suspended from a general hospital after police were called in to investigate claims of up to 10 "mercy killings" of seriously ill patients.

A doctor has been suspended from a general hospital after police were called in to investigate claims of up to 10 "mercy killings" of seriously ill patients.

Essex Police confirmed yesterday that it had launched an inquiry into allegations of "inappropriate use of medicines" by the doctor at the 450-bed Basildon Hospital.

Detectives were called in at the beginning of the week by managers at the Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals Trust at the end of a long internal investigation. The inquiry was prompted when a colleague of a senior woman doctor, named by sources as a consultant at the hospital, reported "concerns" over a number of patient deaths.

Few details were released by the police or hospital but it is understood that most of the cases involved elderly people who were terminally ill. None of the allegations involves children.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said last night: "We are investigating allegations made against a doctor fromthe Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust concerning inappropriate useof medicines on seriously illpatients.

The force has been called in by the trust following concerns raised during an internal investigation. The doctor is currently suspended from the trust." Police sources underlined that the investigation was in its "very early stages" and it had not yet been established whether there was any evidence of a criminal offence.

The doctor, whose identity was not being revealed by the authorities yesterday, has not been arrested or questioned by detectives. The Basildon and Thurrock General Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed that the doctor had been suspended on full pay after its own inquiry, understood to have lasted several months. A trust spokesman said: "We had the investigation and as soon as we had the results of that, we brought the police in."

Management at the Basildon hospital refused to disclose the circumstances behind the suspension, saying only that the case was "very complicated".

The General Medical Council, which has been under pressure to speed up its investigative process because of the case of Harold Shipman, said it was aware of the case. A spokesman said the council was waiting to find out whether the police produced firm evidence against the doctor before considering whether to suspend her licence.

He said: "At this stage, we are simply saying we're in touch with the police and trust and will consider urgently whether we need to take any action."

The General Medical Council announced earlier this year that it was reviewing its disciplinary procedures in the wake of the case of Shipman, the GP from Greater Manchester who murdered 15 of his patients.

The Basildon investigation is the latest in a series where doctors and nurses have been suspended amid claims of malpractice, only for the nature of the allegations to remain shrouded in mystery.

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