THE SUICIDE OF DR SRIDHARAN SURESH

We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of Dr Suresh. A family man, devoted colleague and experienced clinician – the circumstances around his suicide starkly highlight serious failures in investigating healthcare professionals accused of misconduct.[1]

The current system of investigation takes on the presumption of guilt until proven innocent; often results in immediate removal from work, loss of earnings and reputation; drags on through a byzantine process with multiple agencies taking years; and results in wearing down and effectively ruining the career of the accused. The system is not just broken, it is complicit in pushing many to the brink of suicide. [2][3] And for far too many, such as in the case of Dr Suresh, it has pushed them beyond that brink.

We strongly agree with the need to protect patients and the public from the misconduct of healthcare professionals, and recognise that complaints are a part of modern clinical practice. However, they need to go hand in hand with equally strong and rapid measures to protect healthcare professionals from the harms that come from being under investigation. Not to mention recognise the added stresses from dealing with vexatious complaints and false allegations.

This is especially important for healthcare professionals from minority ethnic backgrounds where the intersection of race, culture and faith leads to an experience where discrimination from patients, staff and institutions is more likely. Professionals from these backgrounds often struggle to access appropriate support, experience a greater proportion of complaints, and have a worse outcome compared to peers when under investigation.[4]

This is becoming a crisis with systemic failings seen in every case of suicide under investigation: these are not acceptable occupational hazards by any measure. We are calling on all the various bodies involved to do more than simply learn lessons. We need parity between the protection offered to healthcare professionals under investigation and the support to patients whilst investigating alleged misconduct. Anything less will mean more clinicians like Dr Suresh finding themselves unable to see a way out.

[1] BBC News. Coroner to write to GMC after doctor killed himself. 2020. [ONLINE] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-51665759

[2] Bourne T, Wynants L, Peters M, et al. (2015) The impact of complaints procedures on the welfare, health and clinical practise of 7926 doctors in the UK: a cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open

[3] Horsfall S (2014) Doctors who commit suicide while under GMC fitness to practice investigation (General Medical Council, London)

[4] British Medical Association. 2020. This must be a turning point. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bma.org.uk/connecting-doctors/b/the-bma-blog/posts/this-must-be-a-turning-point

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