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Home » Junior doctor blamed Birmingham hospital for her suicide, family say

Junior doctor blamed Birmingham hospital for her suicide, family say

by Lucas Hayes
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A junior doctor left a suicide note blaming her death entirely on the hospital where she worked.

Vaish Kumar, 35, who was based at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE), said in the letter shared by her parents the working environment “just broke me”.

She died in June and an inquest heard she told paramedics shortly before she died not to take her to the QE.

The trust running the hospital said it needed to learn from her death.

In the note to her mother, Ms Kumar said her mental health had declined while working at the QE and she was “now a nervous wreck”.

The letter, which was not submitted as evidence at the doctor’s inquest, ended: “I am sorry mum, I can blame the whole thing on the QEH.” 

No-one from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, which runs the QE, was called to give evidence at the inquest.

Her parents said they had now released her final words in an attempt to help other junior doctors. 

Dr Ravi Kumar, her father, said he strongly believed the QE had “destroyed” his daughter.

“She must have gone through a huge amount of bullying and stress otherwise she is not the girl who would have done this,” he said.

“So people who have done this have done a huge amount of damage and that makes me angry.”

Before moving to the QE, Ms Kumar was chosen as chief registrar at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals where she worked through the Covid-19 pandemic.

She was seen as an outstanding trainee and a mentor for other junior doctors, with strong leadership skills. 

But her family said that had changed at the QE and her inquest heard she told her parents she had been belittled by consultants there.

The coroner’s court was told Ms Kumar had begun to struggle around December 2021 when she realised her training at the QE was being extended and she was not going to be able to take up a post in Stoke-on-Trent.

She had previously contacted mental health services but not engaged. And in May she had a telephone assessment which showed she had severe depression and moderately severe anxiety, her inquest heard.

She was also feeling low after her grandfather’s death and suffered from a low platelet count which would have affected her mental health, assistant coroner Ian Dreelan said.

Dr Kumar said he had heard from other doctors who had contemplated suicide that Vaishnavi had helped.

“Junior doctors are suffering. If you make their lives better, they will become better doctors, if they have a better environment. Please help them,” he said.

The Doctors’ Association UK has called on NHS England to set up an inquiry to look into the high rate of suicide among the trust’s doctors. 

It said it was aware of four junior doctors working at the trust who had taken their own lives, including three in 2022.

UHB is currently subject to three separate reviews following reports by the BBC of staff saying there is a “climate of fear” at the trust. England’s Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said he is troubled by allegations about its culture.

A spokesperson for the trust said of Ms Kumar’s death it needed to learn and noted the several external reviews being carried out.

“They offer an opportunity for a clear examination of the situation and carefully considered improvements,” the spokesperson added.

“Dr Vaishnavi Kumar was a kind, devoted, much-loved and highly respected doctor, friend and colleague, who had such a positive impact on her patients, offering them the very best care and treatment,” the trust said.

“We were very sad to learn of her death and our thoughts remain with her family at this difficult time.”

Assistant coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Ian Dreelan said coroners rules meant he could not comment on a completed inquest.

The Office of the Chief Coroner said coroners were independent judicial office holders and made their decisions independently.

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