This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Coroner writes to NHS after investigation ‘lost sight GP was a human being’

A coroner is writing to NHS England and the GMC expressing ‘concern’ around investigations of GPs with mental health issues, following the death by suicide of a Midlands GP.

Dr Wendy Potts died by suicide in November 2015. She had been subject to investigations - though not by the GMC - following complaints from a patient about her blog on battling bipolar disorder.

Derbyshire’s Assistant Coroner James Newman said that there were ‘concerns these investigations are taking place on a day-to-day basis’.

Weeks after the complaint, the popular 46-year-old was found hanged at her home after telling her partner ‘How can I have been so stupid?’.

Mr Newman said: ‘It seems to me the suspension and investigation was something of a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.

And he added that ‘no one should forget GPs are doing an incredible job in very difficult circumstances’.

Dr Potts had been suspended by her practice - which was not named - following the patient complaint, but had also been subject to other investigations. It was unclear who was carrying out these investigations.

Her partner Mark St John Jones said Dr Potts had experienced other work-related stresses, including dealing with the death of a patient.

The court heard Dr Potts was under psychiatric care and her medication was increased after the suspension.

Mr Newman had adjourned the earlier hearing to obtain a report relating to Dr Potts’ suspension from work.

After reading all the documents he was clear about the mistakes he believed had been made.

‘The investigation process lost sight that Dr Potts was a human being,” he said.

‘I will be writing to the practice, NHS England and the General Medical Council raising concerns about her situation. It seems it’s not an isolated case.

‘There’s a concern these investigations are taking place on a day-to-day basis.

‘There will be doctors who have mental health issues, but that shouldn’t take away the fact they are doing an incredible job in very difficult circumstances.”

The coroner added: ‘I find that at the time of her death, Dr Potts was under significant pressure both in her private life and due to her significant responsibilities as a GP. This was on a background of her mental health.’

Readers' comments (36)

  • This comment has been deleted

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • GPs do not seem to have the same rights as other human beings-we are viewed like a "sub-human class", perceived as "worthless and valueless".

    TO ALL TRAINEES-PLEASE NEVER BECOME A GP-DO NOT RUIN YOUR WHOLE LIFE SACRIFICING IT FOR AN UNGRATEFUL AND VINDICTIVE GOVERNMENT.

    PLEASE-WHILE YOU HAVE A CHANCE, A CHOICE.....GET OUT

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think that comments from the GMC are warranted so that we might regain or obtain confidence in their procedures. Differentiation between the culpable and thedeliberate needs to be made very early on. The principle of innocent till proven guilty needs to be very obvious and genuine.
    The role of the systemic failures needs to be made very very clear especially in these days of increasing demand and relatively diminishing resources.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 100% condolences for this poor GP's family.

    Experience of new support line isn't 100% either 8 weeks for face 2 face assessment.

    Even when you have a relevant PMH.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The GMC behaves like a machine with Aspergers - totally insensitive to the fallibility and vulnerability of GPs. It is so extremely patient-biased that it may eventually completely erode doctors' morale to an extent that it will itself pose a threat to the profession.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hi there - just to be clear, this particular doctor was not subject to a GMC investigation

  • It is clear that we're not considered to be human. That is why we can be expected to work 8-8 for 7 days per week . Without making mistakes . Or eating . Or sleeping.
    No doubt we will be replaced by robots as soon as it is expedient. Just don't treat us like mechanoids yet.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Who wants to be a GP when the attitude adopted by the GMC and NHS England is 'guilty until proven innocent'

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well done to the coroner for not allowing a whitewash here; It's very sad for the affected late GP and her partner - but does anybody give a damn - sadly I think not.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • asking for med3 from her would have been better than suspension and would have given her time to think what to do next.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Tragic. The regulators just don't get it. Doctors ARE patients. We have the same frailties as everyone else. If you cut us we bleed. If you threaten us, we are afraid. The big untold story here is multiple jeopardy. I know of no other group of people who can be subject to so many different inquisitions from so many groups that can threaten your career. GMC, NHSE, PAG, Ombudsman, CQC, no-win no-fee lawyers to name but a few. This can drag on for years so it's hardly surprising that harm results. No-one trusts the regulators any more. We need reform.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Another point is whether this sort of case amounts to corporate manslaughter, I know gmc were not involved here in this case but there are I believe about 29 doctors deaths that were related in some way to gmc:ftp enquiries, I believe that someone on authority should be held accountable for at least some of those deaths,
    Deeply sad and my thoughts are with this poor doctor's family and friends today

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • So glad to read this. She was our GP retainer then salaried dr for years before leaving to become a partner nearby. She was a lovely person and a great GP, popular with patients and staff; this was a tragedy. RIP Wendy

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • ULTIMATELY IT WILL ALL GO WRONG-THIS COUNTRY WILL SIMPLY RUN OUT OF GPs-THEN ALL THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN AGGRESSIVELY BULLYING GPs WILL HAVE SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS TO ANSWER.

    THERE SHOULD BE A PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF GPs-A RANGE OF POTENTIAL OUTCOMES FROM AN ENQUIRY MAY RESULT EG IN OTHER SCANDALS ENQUIRIES HAVE CONCLUDED "UNLAWFUL KILLING THROUGH GROSS NEGLIGENCE" AND RESULTED IN PROSECUTIONS BUT NO SUCH ENQUIRIES WOULD EVER BE PERMITTED IN THE MIRKY WORLD OF MEDICINE-THERE IS SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We work in a biased society.
    At one hand we are advised to be empathetic to patients but when we become ill.the attitude towards you is as if you have committed murder.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • no other profession is treated as guilty until proven innocent. Dr's have no human rights and we need to fight back to ensure no one is suspended or made to feel like a criminal until the cases has been fully investigated. The letter that comes through the door clearly states "your revalidation is on hold while we investigate you". This needs to stop. if you are an appraiser or do any work for NHSE and you get a complaint, you can no longer work for them while under investigation. This can go on for years. This is not fair and against any human rights. This needs to stop now.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho

    I would go back to the principle and spirit of Common Law which is what we believe in western democracy: presumed innocent until proven guilty, hence any punitive measure only follows after an evidence-based judgement.
    People seem to , however, forget that in running regulatory bodies . Thanks to Mr Newman , reminding us that this principle is one fundamental right of a human being in our society .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • One thing I gained after becoming gp, lost trust in human beings. Human beings are very very clever and can do anything to hurt gps. Gps are genius pure soul and true human beings. Long live gps and short live the one who are hurting gps.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    sadly, we need to blame ourselves - if we keep complaining but do nothing then is it a surprise when we are treated badly?

    we look to our leaders and they do not care as it doesn't affect them - their priority is the NHS

    we look to politicians and they don't care as we are conveniant scapegoats for their policy errors

    we look to each other - but we are told we must report our colleagues otherwise we breach GMC guidelines so we are all scared and end up looking over our shoulders.

    we look to the media but they don't care as long as they make money

    we look to the public but they don't care as it's doctor heal thy self.

    what will it take for us as a group to start taking some action for our own health and well being? How doctors have to turn to drugs, alcohol, suicide before we start looking after our own? How can we recommend the profession to youngsters when we know what is really going on?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It was an absolute disgrace the way she was treated. My most heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

    From reading the article, it seems she did not do anything wrong to warrant a suspension and investigation.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Editor's comments

    Hi there - just to be clear, this particular doctor was not subject to a GMC investigation

    in response to the above comment- i'm pretty sure that the particular Dr was afraid of being referred to the GMC.This is enough to push anyone already close to the edge over it.the threat of a GMC referral has ruined many lives and careers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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

Have your say