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Bipolar GP dies by suicide ‘following patient complaint about online blog’

A much-loved GP died by suicide after a patient complaint meant that she was suspended from her practice, an inquest has heard.

Dr Wendy Potts died by hanging and was found by her partner Mark St John Jones at her home on Hayfield Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, on November 24 last year.

Chesterfield coroners’ court heard the 46-year-old had bipolar disorder and kept an online blog about her condition. But during Monday’s inquest, Mr Jones said that a patient read the blog and complained to Dr Potts’ surgery, questioning whether she should be practising as a GP.

Mr Jones said: ‘Wendy said, “how can I have been so stupid?” – relating to the blog.’

After the October half-term break, Dr Potts was suspended from the practice – which was not identified during the inquest. 

The court heard Dr Potts was under psychiatric care and her medication was increased after the suspension. Before Dr Potts’ died, the suspension was lifted by the surgery but this was subject to other investigations being completed.

Mr Jones said Dr Potts experienced other work-related stresses – including dealing with the death of a patient – and had previously tried to commit suicide. Consultant psychiatrist Dr David Walker said he was not aware of this attempt. ‘She chose not to tell me this had happened,’ he added.

Dr Potts’ mother Joan told the court about her daughter’s manic period in February. She said: ‘She was shouting, jumping on the settee and talking in rhyme. It was very strange – I’ve never seen anything like it before. We didn’t see anything like it again.’

After the manic high, Dr Potts did not work for three months. Mrs Potts added her daughter ‘felt she had got more than she could cope with’ after she and Mr Jones bought a smallholding in Cardigan, west Wales, in May. However, Mr Jones said: ‘Wendy wrote in her blog that this was what she wanted. She wanted to get away from work.’

Coroner James Newman adjourned the inquest to obtain and read a report relating to Dr Potts’ suspension. The hearing will continue on a date yet to be fixed.

NHS England has said that its £16 million GP mental health support service will begin in January 2017,  and will ‘support practitioners working in general practice who may be suffering from mental ill-health including stress and burnout’.