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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.