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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)

  • be single handed. 90% gmc referrals are done by other partners. even if they dont give you one month wage, it will be a big saving for them (other partners). everything arises from ego, greed and laziness and from corrupt genes in some cases.

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  • Will you be more depressed before GMC hearing or after GMC visit?
    will you be more suicidal before death or after death?

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  • If the BMA was any use it would do something about the 12 hour, stressful day. I think they are to blame, they are supposed to be our union.
    Working like this causes more mistakes , more physical illness and more mental illness. It is completely unacceptable.

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  • We are not human. We're glorified slaves.

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  • Cobblers

    Untermensch. That is what we are in the eyes of Politicians, GMC et all.

    I feel a profound sadness that this vulnerable person chose such a demanding career and that it required the ultimate sacrifice.

    Will it change things? No, I doubt it.

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  • I too have been subjected to one of these unsympathetic and unjustified investigations, for, ... asking for help!
    (is it safe to admit that?)
    not GMC, but I felt the investigators were not even listening to, certainly lacking practical advice, and felt extreme lack of support, but more animosity.
    That's probably enough to get me investugated again!

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