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Work pressure a factor in GP suicide

Pressure of work and an inability to switch off after seeing patients were major factors in the suicide of a GP who 'cared more about others than herself', an inquest has heard.

Pressure of work and an inability to switch off after seeing patients were major factors in the suicide of a GP who 'cared more about others than herself', an inquest has heard.

Dr Jane Hext had a heavy workload, including numerous patients with depression, and spent hours each night worrying about their health, writes Anna Hodgekiss.

Colleagues and friends said she increasingly suffered from the daily stress this brought and eventually was forced to take time off work.

She was found dead by her boyfriend on January 18 after taking a lethal dose of the anti-depressant dothiepin. A suicide note was found next to her body.

Dr Hext, 37, had practised at the West Moors Group Practice in Ferndown, Dorset, for three years.

Her colleague, Dr Mark Smith, told the inquest: 'She found it very difficult to switch off from work. She was a very good doctor, took a lot on board, but found it difficult to separate from it when she went home.'

Dr Smith said that as a result of being a good listener 'she attracted a lot of people who were down and depressed'.

He said: 'She would help them and listen to them but it does get a bit miserable after a while and I think she found it difficult to cope with.

'Her death hit the surgery very hard and there were a lot of upset patients.'

Practice manager Sue Rich-ards said Dr Hext had kept her problems a secret from work colleagues.

She added: 'I would say to her ''You can only do what you can do in a day''. She did have ups and downs.'

The Bournemouth inquest heard that Dr Hext had been treated for depression at Poole General Hospital during the 18 months before her death.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Paul Rogers said Dr Hext's thoughts centred around feeling lonely, family problems and pressure at work.

Dr Tom McKinstry, a GP at a nearby practice and friend of Dr Hext, said she had begun to complain about the 'day-to-day stress of general practice'.

He said: 'She obviously hid her feelings from her colleagues. Suicide is a problem that affects many doctors and the rates are rising.'

Dr Hext's sister, Carole Henry, said after the inquest: 'In the end, she cared more about other people than about herself. She will be dearly missed. Above all she cared about her patients, perhaps too much. Around 300 people attended her funeral, of whom 70 were patients.'

Coroner Mr Sheriff Payne recorded a verdict of suicide.

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