This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Read the latest issue online

Gold, incentives and meh

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)

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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]

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 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.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say