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Independents' Day

Petition urges GMC to take responsibility for wellbeing of GPs under investigation

petition is calling for the GMC to take responsibility for the wellbeing of those under its investigation, following a doctor's suicide.

Launched by the organisation Protecting Medics from Tragedy, it urges health secretary Matt Hancock to 'drive change' and has amassed more than 8,600 signatures.

This follows the case of consultant anaesthetist Dr Sridharan Suresh, 50, who died by suicide in May 2018.

He had learned that the GMC had opened an investigation into his conduct, which risked the suspension of his medical registration. 

The organisers stated: ‘Doctors who are accused of misconduct are being treated as guilty before any investigation, by their employer and the GMC. There is little or no protection for these doctors.

‘A number of doctors being investigated by the GMC have committed suicide and the GMC is not accountable for this loss of life. This must be stopped.

‘The GMC should be made responsible for the wellbeing of doctors who are under its investigation. They should be held accountable for the loss of life of any doctor they are investigating.’

A GMC spokeperson told Pulse: ‘This was an extremely tragic case and our thoughts are with Dr Suresh’s family and friends at this difficult time. If we are aware a doctor may be vulnerable we will always put safeguards in place to support them, however for this to happen we must be made aware of concerns, including if the doctor may be at risk of self-harm. In this case, our investigation was at a very early stage and we had no information to indicate that the doctor was vulnerable or at risk.

‘Our letter was polite and informative, but had we been aware of concerns about the doctor’s vulnerability we would have made arrangements to ensure he was supported.

‘In recent years we’ve worked hard to improve our systems, with mental health at the heart of every change, and we’re determined to keep learning and making changes in everyone’s best interests’.

During a dental procedure in a private clinic on hospital premises, Dr Suresh is understood to have administered a sedative, Midazolam, known to occasionally cause hallucinations. The teenage patient later accused him of touching her inappropriately, but the petition organisers stress that there was ‘no witness’, and that the patient’s description of the accused was completely different to that of Dr Suresh.

As well as launching an investigation, police forces reported Dr Suresh to the GMC. He was suspended from work by his employer and restricted from being alone with his son by social services.

A month after being notified of the case, the GMC informed Dr Suresh that it had also opened an investigation, and that he should attend a hearing three weeks later.

At this point, Dr Suresh died by suicide, leaving his family ‘devastated’.

An inquest to scheduled to start tomorrow in Middlesbrough.

A 2015 review, Suicide whilst under the GMC’s fitness-to-practise investigation: Were they preventable?, found that 13 doctors died while GMC ‘failed to act’ on their risk of suicide

The same year, the GMC’s State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK report concluded that 82% of its investigations didn't lead to sanction.

In the subsequent years, there has been much discussion within the medical community about the need for greater support for doctors’ own mental health and wellbeing. 

Last summer, London GP Dr Miles Christie also died by suicide, following fears that he would lose his job if he voiced the state of his mental health.


Readers' comments (23)

  • Vinci Ho

    ‘An inquest to scheduled to start tomorrow in Middlesbrough’.

    Pulse , please keep us posted here

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  • If the banking sector financially destroys a country, causing mental health issues they not only keep their jobs but get bailed out and bonuses.

    If a doctor messes up, their life is destroyed whilst the victims receive compensation which further cripples an already financially unstable health care system.

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  • The GMC’s letters are neither ‘polite’ nor ‘informative’ from experience.

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  • If you turn someone's life upside down like this. How are they not at risk? How can the GMC say they will only support doctors of they feel they may be at risk. This should be automatic when a doctor is not allow to work. This has to stop. The GMC has to take responsibility

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  • The GMC must be able to realise that ALL doctors are vulnerable - being investigated is a devastating experience in which a doctor can lose all sense of identity, purpose, self-esteem and control.
    When I was investigated (and then sanctioned) it was almost like an out-of-body experience.Some very unpleasant aspects of the medical profession are exposed in the process and I quickly realised how naive I was.
    I was amazed when I had suicidal thoughts - and even more amazed that these thoughts were so rational. It just seemed like the most sensible course of action was to kill myself.
    Despair then turned quickly to being completely pissed-off at the medical profession along with a steely determination not to let those events define my life. However, I can see how some doctors would commit suicide - even if there was no previous history of self-harm. We are trained to see personal difficulty as a weakness to be overcome with working harder than ever.
    The GMC takes no responsibility at all and their correspondence is chilling. I've not even opened some of their letters and it was 6 years ago!
    Change does need to come but the GMC cannot see how damaging they are.

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  • @ Seen the light | Locum GP25 Feb 2020 10:58pm

    That’s a very honest account. Thank you.
    GMC should be returned to a register keeper (HMG can fund it - pennies to maintain an electronic register).
    I’d prefer to take my chances with a proper court.

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  • @Decorum Est
    Agree about seen the lights accounts- no one can possibly know how they would react until it happens- and the normal draconian inpulse actions of the GMC and HBs in suspending Drs only serves to promote the illusion of guilty until proven otherwise.
    Not so sure Dr Bawa Garba would agree about open courts though. They have no understanding of the pressures inherent in the modern health sphere, and the self protective nature of the 'organisation'.It would be better if GMC had radical overhaul including kicking out all the useless and vindictive political placeboys first (we know who you are Charlie).

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  • I highly agree with Decorum.

    I'd feel much safer psychologically in a court of justice.

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  • 100% agree with "seen the light" erudite succinct account. IMHO PAG not a million miles behind GMC either.

    And here speaks someone who, appears, like "seen the light" has seen it, done it and got the T shirt. At the time I also reached the view the same view of not letting the bastards grind me down.

    But an interesting aside is that on the GMC website a bit of digging lays all your failings open so if any patient so minded can see if you had ever been on the "naughty step" without any context and use it as additional ammunition in the complaint process.

    And yes had that done to me recently, nearly 10 years after the event.

    Even more so I still too have the mental scars from all the registered GMC letters.

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