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Patient death was 'knock-on effect' from lack of GP resources, says coroner

A coroner has written to the Department of Health expressing concern at GP shortages after ruling that the death of a 26-year-old with a history of mental illness was a 'knock-on effect' from a lack of resources.

Coroner Lisa Hamshi said she was satisfied with the care provided by doctors at Edenfield Road Surgery to Christopher Fairhurst, from Rochdale, but said she was concerned about the strain on practices and the critical shortage of GPs across the country.

Mr Fairhurst died from alcohol poisoning in December last year, after battling depression, and Ms Hamshi recorded a conclusion of misadventure.

But Mr Fairhurst's family said he was often 'twentieth in the queue' when he tried to book a GP appointment.

The inquest heard the practice serves more than 14,000 patients, but has been operating for the past few years with only four or five GPs.

Ms Hamshi told the inquest that she finds it 'deeply saddening there is a lack of psychological resources'.

She added that she plans to send a ‘prevention of future deaths’ form to the Department of Health, which signifies that the risk of another death under similar circumstances is high, and compels the DH to respond to the report within 56 days to say what action it plans to take to reduce the risk.

She said: 'We have heard from a GP how under pressure clinicians are. The retention and training of doctors is a problem.

'There are a number of difficulties faced by the public sector in terms of resources. The knock-on effect is what I see day in and day out with the job I do.’

Dr Joanne Chew, a GP at Edenfield Road Surgery, said pressure began to mount when three GPs left in 2014, with the practice in need of four more to cope with demand.

She warned that dozens of people queued round the block at her surgery in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, because of a 'mad rush' on all 14 phone lines when the practice opened at 8.30am.

She said the practice is 'struggling', with GPs being pulled out of retirement to help.

Dr Chew said: 'If we had enough GPs for face-to-face appointments we wouldn’t have to resort to phone appointments. You can’t rush mental health.'

She added that the practice had decided to improve access by introducing phone consultations but she said 'a lot of us don't agree'.

The inquest heard that Mr Fairhurst had a history of depression and had previously taken an overdose.

Mr Fairhurst's grandfather, Alan Capper, said callers to the surgery were often told they were ‘twentieth in the queue’.

Mr Fairhurst’s family had previously raised concerns about his care, but following the coroner’s conclusion, agreed the NHS simply needs more funding.


Readers' comments (19)

  • I'm glad there was a sensible decision from the coroner.

    In this tragedy the family need to support their practice if they want to see things improve - not complain ( not sure what exactly happened in this case).

    A tragic case like this could be used to put NHSE under real pressure if the family were motivated to do so, and possibly prevent these sort of cases happening every day - which they are

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  • GPs contact me regarding the need for much more support from mental health services. Specialized services tend to have narrow referral criteria for acceptance and often are not integrated within themselves e.g. addiction services/IAPT/Mental health/CRT team/ transitions with patients falling between gaps and increasing pressure on overstretched GPs services
    how about 'CPN' type role based in primary care localities - generalist role

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  • Hmmm...

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  • Vinci Ho

    Like I said always
    Resources mean money , manpower, expertise and time simultaneously, one for all , all for one .
    Now , we have evidence what poor resources can do to patients.
    Without investment of new resources, STPs are dangerous.

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  • Hi Jeremy.
    How does it feel?
    Oh, you don't.
    Probably the fault of that lot who were in power before 2010 anyway...

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  • medicine tastes awful

    Hi Jeremy

    I hope your new toilet is working and flushing well.

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  • How sad. .Where are CCG , locality and NHS England as they can't leave 4 doctors unsupported.
    What has the LMC there done
    All these are part of the organisational structure in failings.
    I don't know what the doctors feel, but I would be further disabled by the shock .

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  • Vinci Ho

    Remember this news about the suicidal girl who could not be admitted because authorities could not find a bed. What did the judge say ?
    Sir James said: "I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the State, embarrassment as President of the Family Division, and, as such, Head of Family Justice, that I can do no more for X".
    This is not sensationalism.
    Where is the responsibility of this JAM(just about managing)government led by the JAM prime minister?

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  • Vinci Ho

    And where is Sarah Wollaston these days?

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  • Sarah?
    Probabaly instelled a 40K bog of her own I shouldn't wonder. You're only as good as those that you associate with.

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