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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.’