Suicide doctor was pressured to cut referrals

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The Independent Online

A popular village doctor killed himself after being put under pressure to cut the number of patients he referred to hospital, an inquest heard.

A popular village doctor killed himself after being put under pressure to cut the number of patients he referred to hospital, an inquest heard.

In the years before his death Stephen Farley, 55, was under investigation by his local Primary Care Trust (PCT), which was running £2m over budget, for sending too many of his patients to see hospital specialists.

Dr Farley had found the investigation "extremely stressful", causing him to take time off work and see a psychiatrist, the inquest at Loughborough magistrates' court in Leicestershire was told yesterday.

The father of two was found hanged in a barn near his house on 23 January last year.

In a statement, the GP's widow, Marion Farley, said her husband had been referring more patients to hospital than other doctors simply because he was popular and patients would "wait and wait to see him".

Mrs Farley said her husband became withdrawn. "He had been off work intending to resume on a part-time basis so the events of Friday, 23 January, were, so far as I was concerned, unexpected," she said.

Charles Jones, the manager of the practice - the Ibstock House Surgery at Ibstock, Leicestershire - said Dr Farley had worked there for more than 20 years so the investigation was "quite a blow for him".

He said health officials visited Dr Farley and showed him a bar chart comparing his number of referrals with those of other GPs. Letters were subsequently sent, requesting that he be retrained.

Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Strategic Health Authority's inquiry into his death concluded that Dr Farley's surgery and the Charnwood and North West Leicestershire PCT, which investigated the GP, failed to look after the health of their staff. It also found that the three-year investigation into Dr Farley was too long and that he was not given enough support.

The panel said Dr Farley "took on a very challenging workload, motivated by his desire to serve the local community". But the PCT had been right to raise questions about the number of his referrals.

Answering questions in the witness box from Charles Killin, a solicitor representing Mrs Farley, health authority chief executive David Sissling admitted that the PCT had been under financial pressure at the time of the investigation.