London GP took his own life after struggling with work-life balance

A 43-year-old north London GP took his own life after struggling with heavy workload and financial pressure and feeling unable to talk about his mental health, an inquest has heard.

Dr Miles Christie (Photo: SWNS)
Dr Miles Christie (Photo: SWNS)

Dr Miles Christie, a married father of two young children, jumped from a bridge in north London on Tuesday 14 May. Paramedics who arrived on the scene were unable to save his life.

Described as a dedicated GP with a 'glistening future', the inquest heard Dr Christie had struggled with work-life balance while caring for patients at two separate practices, and felt increasingly anxious about financial pressures.

In the days leading up to his death, he was also sent five invoices mistakenly informing him he owed money to cover a gap in his Medical Protection Society (MPS) membership, totalling around £48,000 - despite only owing £3,000.

Mental health

His wife told the inquest he had been reluctant to seek help because he feared a mental health diagnosis could lose him his job.

Findings from the inquest come just days after a major BMA report warned that doctors were facing a mental health crisis. Researchers have warned that GPs are at particularly high risk of burnout.

Dr Christie worked 'day and night' at the Burnley Medical Practice NHS surgery in Willesden, north west London, and at the private Knightsbridge Doctors in west London which he planned to move to full-time, the inquest was told.

After resigning from his NHS role, he became increasingly anxious and expressed concerns about the contract and overhead costs related to taking over the Knightsbridge practice. He began working longer hours and lost around eight kilos in weight, the inquest heard.

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Where can GPs access help and support if they are struggling to cope?

The inquest heard that a fellow young doctor at the the Knightsbridge practice spoke often with Dr Christie who said he had been suffering from headaches, poor sleep and night sweats which appeared to be due to anxiety.

Dr Christie was accompanied by his father Dr Peter Christie, a retired paediatrician, to see a psychiatrist days before his death, but denied having suicidal thoughts.

Summing up, coroner Mary Hassell said: 'He was an excellent doctor. He was very in demand. He had quite obviously a tremendously loving family and everyone wanted to help him out.'

But the coroner added that she believed Dr Christie 'could not see the wood for the trees' as his mental health deteriorated. She added: 'There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he did take his own life.

Money worries

'I don't think that the money worries or the work worries or any of the worries explain why.'

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Christie's brother Phil Christie said: 'There is a stigma surrounding doctors and mental health.

'As people become more aware of mental health in society, we have got to become more aware of the people who are taking care of us. Who are looking after the people who take care of us?'

Dr Christie's wife Juliette Stern described her husband as 'a hugely charismatic, kind, positive and gentle soul', telling the inquest it was 'very difficult to come to terms with how someone can unravel like this'.

She also called for more to be done to support medical professionals reluctant to seek help for mental health problems. She said after the hearing: 'Suicide is far more prevalent in the medical profession generally.

'We need to understand why this might be and getting them support rather than being concerned with their ability to practice.'

A memorial fund in Dr Christie's name has raised more than £35,000 to support his wife and their two children.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: 'We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Christie, and again extend our condolences to his family.

'We take the welfare of members extremely seriously and have looked closely at our systems and processes. Corrections have been made where necessary.'

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