Mother who took own life after GP call 'needed face-to-face treatment'

Mother who took own life after GP call 'needed face-to-face treatment'


EXCLUSIVE: ‘My mum was let down by the health service’: Grieving daughter says mother who killed herself after phone appointment with GP should have been seen face-to-face

  • Kimberley Childes, 28, of Caernarfon, said patients ‘should be seen face-to-face’
  • Children’s nursery worker said it took a lot for her mother to reach out for help
  • Her mother Clare Childes, 45, died by suicide after a call with GP back in March
  • For help, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit 

The daughter of a woman who hanged herself just two hours after a desperate phone call to her GP – in which she warned of her suicidal intentions – is calling for the return of face-to-face appointments. 

Kimberley Childes, 28, of Caernarfon, North Wales, told Mail Online that the health service ‘let down’ her mother Clare Childes, 45, who she believes was in dire need of in-person treatment when she arranged an over-the-phone consultation on March 31. 

An inquest yesterday heard how during a 13-minute call with Dr Gwilym Evans, Clare warned that she had downed a bottle of alcohol and was considering hanging herself later that evening. 

But the mother-of-three was not immediately referred to a mental health crisis team over concerns she would not be seen because she had been drinking – while the doctor initially told her that he would call her back the next day. 

Clare was found dead in her home by her son’s girlfriend just two hours later. 

Speaking from her detached bungalow just outside Caernarfon, her daughter Kimberley, a children’s nursery worker, said: ‘Patients should be seen face-to-face because I think it’s hard to diagnose people over the telephone.

Kimberley Childes, 28, of Caernarfon, North Wales, told the Mail Online last night that the health service ‘let down’ her mother Clare Childes, 45, who was in dire need of in-person treatment when she arranged an over-the-phone consultation on March 31 (Pictured: Clare, right, with daughter Kimberley, left)

‘I also understand the risk of the virus.

‘I have suffered with mental health since and my doctor has been fantastic. I have face-to-face appointments. I feel better.

‘My mum was let down by the health service.’

Kimberley, who has two brothers, said of her tragic mum: ‘There was her and her with her illness. Depression took over her on and off for years, lockdown made it worse.

‘Mum was a very proud woman and didn’t really ask for help and would suffer in silence. 

‘For her to ask for help would’ve been a big deal for her, she believed she could manage. 

‘For her to ask for help, she really needed help.’

The coroner at the inquest said yesterday that they are now considering sending health chiefs an official ‘Preventing Future Deaths’ report after hearing of the phone appointment tragedy.

The death of Mrs Childes came just weeks before general practices were told to return to face-to-face appointments by the NHS. 

Latest figures suggest that fewer than 60 per cent of GP appointments in England are held in person, compared to 80 per cent before the pandemic. 

Kimberley, who has two brothers, said her mother was a very ‘proud’ woman and for her to ask for help would have been a ‘big deal’ for her (Pictured: Tragic Clare Childes) 

Health bosses told surgeries to ensure all patients could see their doctors in May — but some practices were later found to have ignored the order. 

Campaigners point out that in-person appointments are vital to pick up on symptoms and conditions that might otherwise be missed. There are also fears that patients may be ignoring potentially dangerous issues because of the access issues. 

At the inquest, Dr Evans said Mrs Childes had told him she was having suicidal thoughts which had been made worse by lockdown.

But he delayed contacting the crisis team because she said she had ‘knocked down a bottle of Disaronno to stop the pain’.

Giving evidence, Dr Evans said: ‘I had never spoken to Clare before that day but I could hear tension in her voice.

‘She told me she was stressed, felt very unwell and was thinking about killing herself.’

The inquest heard Mrs Childes told the doctor her concerns about her finances, her alcohol intake and her relationship breakdown.

Dr Evans said: ‘She also said that lockdown had made her feel more unwell.

The inquest heard Mrs Childes told the doctor her concerns about her finances, her alcohol intake and her relationship breakdown (Pictured: Hafan Iechyd surgery where Dr Gwilym Evans works)

‘I was concerned for her and told her I would speak to the mental health team and said I’d give her a ring tomorrow.

‘She told me she might hang herself later on that evening but I was concerned that the mental health team would decline to see her because she had been drinking so I said I would ring her back as soon as I could.’

The inquest heard Dr Evans called back later that same day at 5:45pm on March 31 but it went straight to answer phone.

Dr Evans said he went on a mental health training course following the tragic death of Mrs Childes.

He added: ‘I’d make the referral straight away now.

‘At the time I was concerned about the presentation of Clare as she told me she had drank a lot and I was concerned they would not be willing to accept a referral if she was under the influence of alcohol.’

He said he had wanted to ‘wait until the effects of the alcohol had worn off.’

The inquest heard Mrs Childes had only been left alone for 40 minutes before her body was found by her son’s girlfriend.

Daughter Kimberley Childes said her mum had been saying she ‘couldn’t cope’ in the lead up to her death.

Kimberely said: ‘She had a history of poor mental health which worsened during lockdown.

‘Mam begged the doctor to do something but she was told to wait until the next day.

The number of GP appointments taking place face-to-face dropped dramatically at the beginning of the pandemic, as virtual appointments were encouraged in an attempt to keep social mixing low and hospitals virus-free. In-person appointments began to increase last summer, before dropping again during the second wave. Despite being on the rise, the figures are still much lower than pre-pandemic levels

The average number of sessions GPs works in a day have gone down over the last decade while their wage growth has gone up. In 2012 the average GP worked 7.3 sessions a week but this has now fallen to 6.6 a week, the equivalent of just over three days of work a week. In the same period the average GP income went up by more than £6,000. A GP’s daily work is divided into sessions. According to the NHS, a full-time GP works 8 sessions a week, formed of two sessions a day, generally starting at 8am and finishing at 6.30pm, though these hours can vary

Just 0.6 per cent of appointments in August were home visits, down from one per cent before the Covid crisis. Doctors have long called for them to be scrapped because they are too time-consuming

‘I never imagined she would do something like this.

‘She loved going out and socialising and will be sadly missed by family and friends.’

Acting senior coroner Katie Sutherland recorded a conclusion of death by hanging.

She said: ‘Clare had a history of mental health problems and during the telephone consultation which began at 13.56, she said she felt suicidal.

‘She was told a referral would be made to the mental health team but it was not made.’ 

A package from Health Secretary Sajid Javid to address the crisis in GP access will be announced in the coming days.

Rules set to be on the chopping block include the two-metre social distancing rule in surgeries. This was dropped by hospitals last month.

GPs could also have their workload eased, with hospitals writing more prescriptions and sickness notes for workers. And onerous cleaning requirements could be scaled back.

A Whitehall source said last night that the new package would see ministers work with the profession to reverse the decline seen over the past two years.

The source said: ‘GPs are doing a great job under difficult circumstances — we are full of praise for the vast majority who are doing their best for patients.

‘We have been working closely with the NHS on a plan to support GPs and deliver better outcomes for patients. 

‘We all want the same outcome and by working together we can achieve it but we will hold the small minority letting the side down to account.’

Doctors’ representatives have bridled at the suggestion they are not willing to see patients. 

The decision is a major victory for the Mail’s campaign, Let’s See GPs Face to Face, which has detailed the devastating decline in the number of patients able to see a doctor.

  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see for details. 

The new face-to-face revolution: Sajid Javid launches overhaul in GP access so all patients can see a doctor in person… with league tables and ‘hit squads’ for those that fail 

Sajid Javid last night launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor face to face.

Family doctors will be offered an extra £250 million to improve patient access – but will be named and shamed in new league tables if they fail to deliver.

The nine-point plan is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s Let’s See GPs Face to Face campaign.

Health Secretary Mr Javid, Boris Johnson and new NHS chief Amanda Pritchard all paid tribute to the Mail for highlighting the devastating decline in the number of patients able to see their doctor in person.

Under the new proposals, patients will be given the right to demand a face-to-face appointment with their family doctor.

GPs will be told they should refuse a plea to have an in-person consultation only if there are good clinical reasons.

The NHS England ‘Plan for GPs and Patients’ will give practices £250 million of extra cash to take on more staff, ensuring patients can have an appointment on the day they request one. This could include extending opening hours.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has launched a revolution in GP access designed to ensure all patients can see a doctor face to face. Pictured: Mr Javid at a Westminster pharmacy yesterday

But they will not be able to access the extra money if too many of their consultations are carried out over the telephone or online.

New ‘transparency’ rules will also publish data on the level of service offered by individual GP practices, including the level of access for patients seeking face-to-face appointments.

Whitehall sources acknowledged the data would allow the creation of local and national league tables, with the worst performers named and shamed in the media.

GP practices which fail to improve access for patients will face direct intervention from teams of NHS trouble-shooters.

To help doctors improve their service, red tape will be slashed to give GPs more time to see patients in person – and telephone systems will be upgraded to make it easier to book an appointment.

Meanwhile, pharmacists will get enhanced powers to treat a wide range of minor complaints to ease the pressure.

Mr Javid confirmed GPs will be offered £250million in funding to help improve patient access

The Department of Health will reduce administrative burdens on GPs by reforming who can provide medical evidence and certificates such as fit notes and DVLA checks – freeing up time for more appointments.

And officials will today confirm that GP surgeries can scrap the two-metre social distancing rule imposed during the pandemic, which has dramatically reduced numbers in waiting rooms.

However, last night there were signs the plans would spark a row with doctors’ unions and some frontline GPs.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said the proposals would make appointments harder to book and the Government was ‘out of touch’.

He said it was disappointing to see there was ‘no end in sight to the preoccupation with face-to-face appointments’ – and demanded an end to ‘target-driven, payment-by-results’.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said there was ‘nothing here to address the long-standing workforce pressures facing general practice’.

But he cautiously welcomed plans to slash bureaucracy. ‘GPs go into medicine to care for patients, yet they spend a significant amount of their time on box-ticking and filling forms,’ he said.

‘This bureaucracy has an impact on workload in general practice, which has become increasingly ‘undoable’ and is leading to many GPs, and other members of the team, burning out or leaving the profession.

 Last night the Prime Minister praised the Mail for highlighting the collapse in face-to-face appointments over the past two years.

Mr Johnson said: ‘The Mail’s campaign on this issue has shown the importance of everyone having the choice and ability to see their GP face to face, and this plan will mean more appointments at more surgeries.’ Writing for the Mail, Mr Javid said he was determined to get the NHS ‘closer to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments’.

Mrs Pritchard thanked the Mail for acting as ‘a strong voice for patients’, adding that there would also be a new effort to tackle abuse against GPs.

The nine-point plan came as a YouGov poll found that two-thirds of people prefer a face-to-face appointment.

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