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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)

  • 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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