Coroner’s verdict directs GMC to ensure trusts and agencies inform doctors when they are referred to the GMC and check what support they need.
Senior Coroner, Clare Bailey, made the recommendation following the inquest of Dr Sridharan Suresh who was a consultant at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Suresh drowned himself in the River Tees after he was informed that he was under investigation for an alleged sexual assault.
Briefly, in April 2018 Dr Suresh gave medication to a 15 year old girl to sedate her for a dental procedure. The medication had the occasional side effect of confusion, hallucinations and unusual thoughts or behaviour. The girl accused Dr Suresh of touching her sexually and made a report to Cleveland Police.
Dr Suresh was suspended but assured that he would not be referred to the GMC unless the police found sufficient evidence to bring a charge. The police preferred Dr Suresh to the General Medical Council without bringing criminal charges. Dr Suresh’ health trust was informed of the referral but they failed to inform Dr Suresh.
The Trust’s failure to inform Dr Suresh “unwittingly led to false reassurances being given to Dr Suresh that a referral was not going to be made and resulted in a missed opportunity to provide him with further support” Ms Bailey found.
The GMC is reported to have said: “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.”
Following the death of Dr Suresh, a petition has been launched calling on the GMC to take responsibility “for the wellbeing of doctors who are under its investigation. They [GMC] should be held accountable for the loss of life of any doctor they are investigating. The UK Secretary of State for Health should bring about change to the statute to achieve this, so that doctors' lives are protected.”