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GPs go forth

The heartbreaking tale of Richie demands real change on GP suicide

Editor’s blog

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It’s easy to be cynical about the LMCs Conference. I am fully aware that, for many readers, it is a bit ivory tower, a bit of a talking shop. And – having been to every one over the past six years – I have a lot of sympathy for this view.

But listening to Dr Lucy Henshall, an LMC member from Suffolk, it hit home what the conference can do. She spoke of ‘Richie’, a friend from medical school and her husband’s practice partner.

Richie was a well-loved GP, a GP trainer who inspired his trainees, colleagues and patients. Yet he suffered from depression and had two long-term periods of sick leave.

When he went on holiday, and came back to a patient complaint, things got ‘irreversably’ worse. He died by suicide years later.

Dr Henshall’s speech had the conference brought to tears, and a standing ovation. She was followed by a number of GPs, all telling their stories.

The motion – calling for the GPC to lobby government to adequately resource proper psychological support systems for all GPs, including GPs who are on parental or sickness leave or who are out of work – obviously received huge support.

The delegates here are (sorry for this term) best placed to do something about this. The mood in the room demands that GP mental health is rocketed to the top of the agenda – where it should be. A minute’s silence at the end of the speech (requested by Dr Henshall) ensured this.

We at Pulse have campaigned on this for years. Our lobbying ended up with the GP Health Service. But we need more. We need resources for mentoring and coaching within practices to ensure it doesn’t get to this point. We need GPs who are in fear of burnout to have a place to turn.

And I believe that this will become a focal point of efforts for the BMA GP Committee in the year. They can’t ignore the room.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Readers' comments (7)

  • The complaint and GNM culture of the UK [ take Dr Bawa garba or Mr Selu ] is truly frightening.
    The UK is no place for doctors, its legal punishing systems are draconian, and you take up Medicine at your peril.
    Your career can come to and end and you could be in jail.
    Seriously, DR BG was covering 4 doctors and the thanks for that in the UK is a manslaughter conviction.

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  • This is a really great editors blog. GPs exhaust themselves caring for others and are constantly battered by bureaucratic process. Seeking help is risky as the person helping you is duty bound to report you if there are concerns about your ability to function as a GP.
    Suicide is an appalling solution to the problem--yet I fully understand why some make that choice.

    Somehow we need to offer proper, effective, non-judgemental, confidential support.

    GPs are amazing people--but not very good at looking after ourselves.

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  • Thank you for highlighting this Jaimie

    I, for one, was in tears following this speech.

    Why? Because we know how close we have all been to the distress felt by many doctors who end up taking their own lives.

    We must care for ourselves first

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  • Yes of course support for the doctors but the underlying causes of increased suicide and sick leave/ early retirements and burn out need to be addressed urgently.

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  • The New contract has just piled more straw on to the camels backs we have been let down on that front.Thanks BMA for nothing.

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  • I speak as I find. And would urge others to do the same. If we can (and I appreciate for some the fear factor literally paralyses them) but if we can, we each have to speak up individually to begin tackling the known root causes and to create the groundswell that will eventually bring about change. Don’t just leave it to others, join in. #SpeakUp #AlsoHuman

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  • Personal experience closer to most regarding this article and 100% agree its the toxic work environment that's the issue and the fact NHS E and significant others don't give a s**t

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