Derbyshire GP who blogged about her bipolar disorder committed suicide

A coroner has criticised a decision to suspend and investigate a GP - who would go on to kill herself - after she wrote an online diary about suffering from bipolar disorder.

Monday, 26th June 2017, 10:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:44 am
The inquest was heard at Chesterfield coroners' court.

Dr Wendy Potts was found hanged at her home on Hayfield Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, on November 24, 2015 - after a patient read the blog and reported her.

At Chesterfield coroners' court on Monday, coroner James Newman concluded Dr Potts committed suicide.

Mr Newman said: "It seems to me the suspension and investigation was something of a sledgehammer being used to crack a nut.

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"The investigation process lost sight that Dr Potts was a human being.

"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 inquest previously heard how Dr Potts, a 46-year-old mother, kept a blog in which she stated she suffered from bipolar disorder, a mental health condition marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.

Her partner, Mark St John Jones, told the court a patient read the blog and complained to Dr Potts' surgery, questioning whether she should be practicing as a GP when she had the condition.

After the October half-term break in 2015, Dr Potts was suspended from the practice - which was not identified during the inquest.

Mr Jones said: "Wendy said, 'how can I have been so stupid?' - relating to the blog."

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 how her daughter experienced a manic high in February, 2015.

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, 2015.

However, Mr Jones said: "Wendy wrote in her blog that this was what she wanted.

"She wanted to get away from work."

Mr Newman said: "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."