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Bipolar GP dies by suicide 'following patient complaint about online blog'

A much-loved GP died by suicide after a patient complaint meant that she was suspended from her practice, an inquest has heard.

Dr Wendy Potts died by hanging and was found by her partner Mark St John Jones at her home on Hayfield Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, on November 24 last year.

Chesterfield coroners' court heard the 46-year-old had bipolar disorder and kept an online blog about her condition. But during Monday's inquest, Mr Jones said that a patient read the blog and complained to Dr Potts' surgery, questioning whether she should be practising as a GP.

Mr Jones said: 'Wendy said, "how can I have been so stupid?" - relating to the blog.'

After the October half-term break, Dr Potts was suspended from the practice - which was not identified during the inquest. 

The court heard Dr Potts was under psychiatric care and her medication was increased after the suspension. Before Dr Potts' died, the suspension was lifted by the surgery but this was subject to other investigations being completed.

Mr Jones said Dr Potts experienced other work-related stresses - including dealing with the death of a patient - and had previously tried to commit suicide. Consultant psychiatrist Dr David Walker said he was not aware of this attempt. 'She chose not to tell me this had happened,' he added.

Dr Potts' mother Joan told the court about her daughter’s manic period in February. She said: 'She was shouting, jumping on the settee and talking in rhyme. It was very strange - I’ve never seen anything like it before. We didn’t see anything like it again.'

After the manic high, Dr Potts did not work for three months. Mrs Potts added her daughter 'felt she had got more than she could cope with' after she and Mr Jones bought a smallholding in Cardigan, west Wales, in May. However, Mr Jones said: 'Wendy wrote in her blog that this was what she wanted. She wanted to get away from work.'

Coroner James Newman adjourned the inquest to obtain and read a report relating to Dr Potts' suspension. The hearing will continue on a date yet to be fixed.

NHS England has said that its £16 million GP mental health support service will begin in January 2017,  and will 'support practitioners working in general practice who may be suffering from mental ill-health including stress and burnout'.



Readers' comments (27)

  • I am sorry to hear about this poor doctor and I hope her family is left alone to grieve.

    Whilst I appreciate the need to protect the patient, it seems we are the only profession in this country that's exempt from the disability discrimination act and human rights. If a doctor is under investigation not due to malpractice, but due to his/her disability, surely it needs to be handled with just as much sensitivity as you would with any other individual and if the suspension is placed purely to safe guard the patient, her income should be protected.

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  • As above a really sad case.

    With regards to suspensions for health related issues, it seems like the GMC has demonstrated time and time again that it is incapable of handling these issues sensitively. (Not specifically in this case - we don't have enough information, but overall for certain).

    Surely the GMC should be relegated to managing just malpractice and an occupational health service (i.e. a consultant who is professionally responsible for their decision making) should handle health issues.

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  • Vinci Ho

    ''Now I understand
    What you tried to say to me
    And how you suffered for your sanity
    And how you tried to set them free

    They would not listen, they did not know how
    Perhaps they'll listen now

    For they could not love you
    But still your love was true
    And when no hope was left in sight
    On that starry, starry night......''

    Don McLean

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  • Really sad; if all the staff with mental health issues stopped working for the nhs it would collapse within 1 hour.

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  • Was Dr Potts being investigated by the GMC? Is her tragic death yet another linked to this organisation's activities?

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  • Took Early Retirement

    This is truly tragic.

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  • People talking openly about a cancer diagnosis are called courageous ,people talking about their mental health problems made to feel guilty.
    We obviously do not know the ins and outs of this case but a patient questioning a doctor's fitness to work as a GP because of a diagnosis of BAD should not lead to the Practice suspending this GP.
    If you are off sick your colleagues will send you flowers , unless you are off with a mental health problems.
    This is tragic ,but unfortunately reflects how patients , especially doctors are treated if they dare to have a mental health problem.

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  • At last comment...what about dementia? This is a mental illness which impairs and with more and more doctors getting older, should we allow dementia cases to continue to practice.

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  • " should we allow dementia cases to continue to practice..."

    No, of course not; they should be robustly persecuted and ruthlessly investigated until driven to kill themselves. Protecting the patients......

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  • Nice Straw Man you have there...

    If dementia does NOT impair one's mental faculties in a slow and insidious way, why bother diagnosing or managing cases.

    Would you wish your wife/son etc be treated by a GP with OBVIOUS - ie obvious to lay person-impairment due to mental illness or dementia (can you manage a yes/no answer tothis?)

    If a less obvious but SUSPECTED, what do you (patient or colleague) do? If you answer "Nothing, oh well, live and let live", that is highly blasé

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