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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

GP died by suicide after fears over sharing his mental health diagnosis, inquest hears

Dr Miles Christie, a GP in London, died by suicide following fears that he would lose his job if he voiced the state of his mental health, an inquest has heard.

Dr Christie, who died in May this year after falling from a bridge in North London, had worked daytimes as an NHS GP at Burnley Medical Practice in Willesden, north west London, and nights at the private Knightsbridge Doctors in west London, where he planned to move to full-time.

Prior to his death, the court heard that Dr Christie had resigned from the NHS, but had expressed concerns about the costs of taking over the Knightsbridge practice. He began working longer hours, lost approximately 17.6 lbs in weight, experienced symptoms of anxiety and was accompanied by his father Dr Peter Christie, a retired paediatrician, to see a psychiatrist days before his death.

The hearing was also told that in the days prior to his death, Dr Christie was sent five invoices mistakenly informing him that he owed money to cover a gap in his Medical Protection Society (MPS) membership, totalling around £48,000. However, he actually only owed £3,000.

However, the coroner said these money worries did not explain his death fully. 

Coroner Mary Hassell concluded: ‘He was an excellent doctor. He was very in demand. He had quite obviously a tremendously loving family and everyone wanted to help him out. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he did take his own life.'

She added: ‘I don’t think that the money worries or the work worries or any of the worries explain why.’

He said: ‘As people become more aware of mental health in society, we have got to become more aware of the people who are taking care of us. Who are looking after the people who take care of us? They are working in very tense environments and they are not mental health themselves.’

His widow, Juliette Stern, also urged for greater support for medical professionals who are reluctant to seek help for their mental health, out of fear that it being on the record could prohibit them from practicing.

Ms Stern said: ‘Suicide is far more prevalent in the medical profession generally. We need to understand why this might be and getting them support rather than being concerned with their ability to practice. He was deeply concerned about a mental health diagnosis going on his record and affecting his ability to work.’

Dr Christie’s brother, Phil Christie, emphasised the stigma surrounding doctors and mental health.

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at MPS, told Pulse: ‘We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Christie, and again extend our condolences to his family.

‘We take the welfare of members extremely seriously and have looked closely at our systems and processes. Corrections have been made where necessary.’

Burnley Medical Practice, where Dr Christie worked for five years, shared ‘fond memories’ of his ‘kind manner, personal service and high quality care’.

A memorial fund dedicated to Dr Christie’s memory has so far raised more than £35,000 to support his family. 

The GMC's annual survey found that a third of trainee doctors don't know who to speak to at work about wellbeing concerns, while the BMA have called for equal treatment doctors' mental and physical health.

Readers' comments (10)

  • In all other professions, you would get sympathy and help and not be discriminated of at work. Not in medicine. The BMA and the GMC are a big failure for failing doctors on this.
    If one is depressed (hard not to be in this toxic climate), you get zero help and tons of pressure and adverse conditions put on you for being ill. This is discrimination. The family should sue.

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  • Incredibly tragic

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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.
    (They would not listen, they're not listening still
    Perhaps they never will)...........

    Don McClean

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  • know the feeling, lost 12 ibs and suffered from severe anxiety after waking up one morning to a letter from the greedy landladies solicitor for a 100k bill for dilapidation as the last man standing.

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  • one doctor every 3 weeks kills themselves in this country. medical professionals are well, aware of the consequences of their actions and the effects it has on those left behind. to get to this point is a disaster. the lack of support is a national scandal.If you can't help the healers there is no hope for anyone. so sad for the family.

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  • sad thing was I did not hide the stress I was under to my ccg or lmc but no one suggested any form of alternative support. Not surprised by this report one bit

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  • I would say the biggest contributor to stress, is patient power, onerous enhanced services, premises and unnecessary big brother cqc, appraisals etc to the extreme extend that some of them are taken to. You know what my GP colleagues did't care even when under duress, and they are supposed to be trained in mental health!!!!

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  • Does seem that a bill for £48.000 is wrong and cruel for anyone, (especially if only £3,000 is actually owed). What a shocker, especially for someone unwell. Enough to put many hard workers like GPs over the edge. Perhaps there should be a law against organisations sending out false bills. and hold MPS to account. A Duty of Care to the doctor was required by MPS, I think. Very sad indeed. He deserved much better.

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  • Tragic. If a profession allows itself to be overwhelmed - with work, responsibility, liability... the end point is the destruction of its members. The NHS could destroy all of us if we are not united, vocal, and deliberate in our protests. As general practice cracks and fails, we should be standing and shouting for better... there are so many elements of general practice that could be easily (and better) performed by an outside organisation (properly funded). Take mental health. I did approx two weeks at medical school in psychiatry. The sum knowledge of my prescribing in mental health could be learnt in a day. A prescribing mental health worker, with close links to (properly funded) psych teams could easily manage the depressed and anxious patients who make up 10-20% (my guess!) of our workload. Just because the mental health services are failing due to underfunding, does not mean solutions to our failing service should not be tackled. The life expectancy of the UK will continue to decline while GPs are too nice to say ‘no’.

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  • In Medway you tolerate the bullying by CCG and NHSE professionals and linger on. A Head of NHSE who bullied you for 2 years comes back to his post in the area after a 5 year break and the first thing he says is he is repentant that you are still a GP at the same Practice. CCGH gives payments to all Practices for formation of PCNs. Your money never reaches you - 'it may have gone to a parallel account and you should chase it yourself Doctor, is what the CCG explains.
    Your Open Exeter statement says your total payment units are 4660, but you get paid for 3300. Nobody holds this data for any Practice. It's only your data that is held because you are the target of the local powers.
    Bullying is a rampant and popular sport in NHS - you don't 'play the game' you've had it even though you are doing your job with your head down conscientiously. Things must change but fish rots from the head and that needs a guillotine. Our mental health is precious and no white collar with pink drunken neck has a right to abuse NHS workers at any level whatsoever.

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