Suicide doctor faced seven complaints: Councillor in Westminster housing scandal also had professional worries. Christian Wolmar reports

THE FORMER councillor who committed suicide because of the inquiry into his role in the Westminster homes-for-votes scandal faced seven serious complaints arising from his work as a doctor.

Dr Mikael Dutt, a consultant for the elderly at St Albans City Hospital, was also the subject of other complaints which have not yet been made formally, according to health workers. One said: 'Many relatives are too old or find it too difficult to complain but I know of several others who have misgivings about care in the elderly unit.' Dr Dutt, a former Tory chairman of Westminster's housing committee, committed suicide last month.

A suicide note blamed the investigation into 'designated council house sales' which found provisionally that he was involved in gerrymandering marginal wards to ensure that they returned Tory councillors in the 1990 local election. Along with nine other officials and councillors, Dr Dutt was deemed to be responsible for losses of pounds 21.5m.

Dr Dutt's note said he felt that with the Westminster case hanging over him, 'I could not do my demanding medical work properly and without this I do not choose to continue living'.

Most of the complaints relate to failure to look after and nurse elderly patients properly at the hospital. However, one complainant, Richard Ross-Langley, was worried that his mother, Esme, 72, who suffered from emphysema, had been given a tranquilliser which had side-effects for elderly patients and people with respiratory problems. She died a week after being admitted to the hospital when she suffered a stroke.

But when a letter Mr Ross-Langley wrote saying he was considering a complaint found its way to Dr Dutt, he received a reply from Peter Carter-Ruck, the libel lawyer, pressing him to withdraw the allegations.

North West Herts Community Health Council took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a news release to correct press coverage which implied Dr Dutt only faced three complaints.

The council wants the complaints procedure to go ahead despite Dr Dutt's death. There has been concern about cuts at St Albans and at its higher level of complaints compared with the neighbouring care unit for the elderly at Hemel Hempstead.

As the consultant, Dr Dutt was responsible for patients in the elderly care unit at St Albans. A health worker said: 'This is really an unusually high number of complaints. As the doctor in charge, he should have done something about standards at the hospital.'

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