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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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  • It is highly blasé that there are so many suicides occurring when doctors are under investigation/referred to the GMC and the BMA/GPC does nothing. Why is there a double standard when it comes to doctors in the UK? If a doctor loses their life under investigation there is apathy but if anyone who is not a doctor loses their life under such circumstances there is outrage.

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  • No job is worth losing your life .. just walk away and enjoy your family and loved ones .... don't sweat the small stuff .... its all small stuff ..
    Not sure what was in the blog .. hope it was not too sensitive or risky ..

    From God we came and to God we return

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  • Patient complaints are just soooo common these days.

    Keep them in perspective..

    A polite brief and diplomatic answer will usually suffice..

    Dear patient in reply to your complaint .. the Doctor has killed herself... hope this satisfactorily settles the complaint ...

    I know that's not fair to the patient who has every right to raise concerns

    but its just tragic for the doc and the family

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  • When we do not know so much of important detail of the case, we shouldn't be too quick to arrive to an opinion. And let this family grieve in privacy they need.
    It's natural to blame GMC, but we don't even know if they were even involved, although seems likely.

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  • Sincere condolences to Dr Pott's family.

    I'm surprised that many more doctors haven't gone the same way under the 40% across the board, cost cutting regimes. Doctors are human too and it just goes to show how much pressure there is in the health service that so many health professionals feel they're right on the edge of the cliff themselves.

    BUT - what sort of a health service is it where your own kind make your life difficult too - I HATE THE HEALTH SERVICE for its Communist run management system where petty jealousies are constantly used to score career brownie points to the detriment of ones, supposed, valued work colleagues (ha) - LET THIS CASE BE A MARKER IN THE SAND - most caring medical professionals came into the service to help people - this bickering and vindictiveness MUST STOP and there has to be better direction from NHS England on management styles at GP practice level. Support for your fellow colleagues NOT a smile up front and a blade in the back!!!

    AND WHAT OF whinging, nothing better to do, so-called patients - WHY TAKE ANYTHING of this nature so seriously?! Surely it should be handled quietly and internally.

    NHS England needs to get over itself on the Harold Shipman issue and STOP marginalising good healthcare professionals being tarred with the same PC brush.


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  • Well said on..sadly there is no one to fight for us... as a result there will be so many reasons not to join the medical profession in the UK.

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  • mentally ill doctor should be off sick till doctor's condition improves. if it does not improve then they should retire on health ground.
    somany med3 issued for stress/alcohol deperndance drug addiction. mental illness of serious nature need all help that one can provide.

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  • This poor Drs life is splashed all over the news papers and their life is dissected ...and what about the individual who made the complaint? Their identity is kept secret and they are protected like its some kind of sacred right to make heartless complaints about people who's sole professional reason of being is to try to make other people's lives better. This makes me angry and sad in equal measure.

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  • Dear Anyone

    If you are concerned about yourself or a doctor close to you please please contact PHP
    We don't turn anyone away if they are desperate - though only funded for London we will always try and help
    We are confidential and will see what we can do
    Nothing is ever so bad that we can't find a way around it

    All best]

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  • Sorry to hear such tragic news. May your soul rest in peace. Condolences and prayers for Dr Potts family. Thank you for your time, sacrifice and service to the nhs and to your patients and colleagues. May the good you did show light to others. You deserve the dignity and grace that we all would give our own.

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  • What a needless loss of life , if only this could have been handled more sensitively. The patient is not always right and Dr Potts appeared to only want to share her experiences, so sad

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  • Sincere condolences to Dr. Potter's family.
    We do not know the details of her practice's action against her, but these questions come to my mind.
    1. Was the suspension only because of the patient complaint?
    2. Did her employers know about her condition when appointed?
    3. If they did, was she supervised and her condition monitored, as an employer is obliged to do? For patient safety?
    4. Were there any previous indications of mental instability?
    The list of questions is unending.
    So, as we know just some bare information, we cannot condem or praise anyone.
    Sincere condolences to her family.
    Retired GP

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  • Bipolar doctor?

    Cancer doctor?
    Heart disease doctor?
    Diabetes doctor?
    Stroke doctor?

    Does anyone else get my point?

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  • An earlier response stated the NHS being a communist regime and that is why there is back stabbing etc. No, sadly its human nature in whatever area one works.

    So sorry about Dr Potts.
    I do think patients should also be aware of the consequences of their actions, including health professionals.
    Been recently reading a book on bullying in nursing, it's one of the worst professions for it.
    Another erratic comment...when I saw my GP a few years ago when I was going through a difficult time, she said, "You know, I've read we only enter caring professions because we need caring for ourselves".

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  • Name and shame the patient responsible

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  • The patient is rarely correct

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  • If it wasn't the case that the patient is often ill informed and ignorant there wouldn't be such a demand to come and see us and ask our opinion. Society is on a seemingly relentless drive to enable patients to state their view and push their opinions increasingly at the expense of folk who've spent years studying what the correct approach is. Every day I meet people who want to tell me how they should be treated, what antibiotic works 'for them' , that they disagree with my diagnosis and want me to rubber stamp the ideas they came in with. Of cause use we need to be listening to the peole who see us, we couldn't work out what is wrong with them without listening to what they say, there has to be a balance and slavishly doing what we are told and opening ourselves up to any random rubbish comment while obsessively protecting the people who so at the expense of the Dr is a receipt for madness. Only the other day I read a story on here reporting the GMC are planning a massive extension to the amount of personal information they hold on Drs on the register that will be avaliable to Jo Public. This kind of sad event is symptomatic of a culture of enabling the ignorant and controlling those trained to help them. My very best wishes to this Dr and those who love her.

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