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The heartbreaking tale of Richie demands real change on GP suicide



jaimie kaffash 2 duo 580x271px

jaimie kaffash 2 duo 580x271px

It’s easy to be cynical about the LMCs Conference. I am fully aware that, for many readers, it is a bit ivory tower, a bit of a talking shop. And – having been to every one over the past six years – I have a lot of sympathy for this view.

But listening to Dr Lucy Henshall, an LMC member from Suffolk, it hit home what the conference can do. She spoke of ‘Richie’, a friend from medical school and her husband’s practice partner.

Richie was a well-loved GP, a GP trainer who inspired his trainees, colleagues and patients. Yet he suffered from depression and had two long-term periods of sick leave.

When he went on holiday, and came back to a patient complaint, things got ‘irreversably’ worse. He died by suicide years later.

Dr Henshall’s speech had the conference brought to tears, and a standing ovation. She was followed by a number of GPs, all telling their stories.

The motion – calling for the GPC to lobby government to adequately resource proper psychological support systems for all GPs, including GPs who are on parental or sickness leave or who are out of work – obviously received huge support.

The delegates here are (sorry for this term) best placed to do something about this. The mood in the room demands that GP mental health is rocketed to the top of the agenda – where it should be. A minute’s silence at the end of the speech (requested by Dr Henshall) ensured this.

We at Pulse have campaigned on this for years. Our lobbying ended up with the GP Health Service. But we need more. We need resources for mentoring and coaching within practices to ensure it doesn’t get to this point. We need GPs who are in fear of burnout to have a place to turn.

And I believe that this will become a focal point of efforts for the BMA GP Committee in the year. They can’t ignore the room.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk