NHS Lothian antidepressants critic ‘astonished’ by colleague’s concerns

A leading medic who resigned from the Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland after raising concerns about the side-effects suffered by patients prescribed antidepressants was astonished when the organisation’s chairman reported concerns about his mental health, he has revealed.

Monday, 10th June 2019, 8:55 pm
Psychiatrist Dr Peter Gordon. Pic: Gordon Terris/The Herald

Dr Peter Gordon published his resignation letter online and said he believed the college was too close to the multi-billion pound international pharmaceutical industry.

In 2014, he petitioned the Scottish Parliament for a “Sunshine Act” which would require doctors to declare all payments and the cash value of gifts they had received on a publicly accessible register.

He said patients deserved to know whether medical professionals including GPs and psychiatrists who were prescribing them anti-depressants, had been paid by commercial companies.

Dr Gordon, who has worked for the NHS for 26 years and is employed by NHS Lothian, has been an outspoken critic of antidepressants after he became suicidal 15 years ago when he tried to withdraw from taking Seroxat for anxiety.

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The withdrawal triggered a period of deep depression, and Dr Gordon is now too fearful to come off them altogether.

But he was shocked to learn that following his resignation in November, Dr John Crichton, the chairman of the College in Scotland, had contacted the medical director of NHS Lothian directly to raise concerns about Dr Gordon’s mental health.

Dr Gordon described this as “gaslighting” – a term used when a person is manipulated by the actions or words of others into questioning their own sanity.

The 51-year-old said: “I was quite distressed by that. I was not unwell.

“At that point I thought, ‘I’ve just had enough of how I’ve been treated by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for trying to raise ethics of good medical practice, patient safety’.

“We’re supposed to be encouraged to have freedom to speak up and put patients first.

“That’s all I’ve tried to do. I just felt like I had been gaslighted.”

Following Dr Crichton’s intervention in December, Dr Gordon was referred to NHS Lothian’s occupational health department.

Staff there gave him a clean bill of health and confirmed he was fit to work, and Dr Gordon has recently returned to St John’s Hospital in Livingston, working for two days a week.

He continued: “It would upset me deeply if anyone thought I was trying to undermine people who have had positive experiences from antidepressants.

“I’m just openly asking questions about ethics, transparency and patient safety.”

One newspaper yesterday reported that Dr Crighton denied the claim in e-mails, and insisted his report was motivated by concerns for Dr Gordon’s welfare.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists Scotland said: “All medical practitioners have a duty to protect patients and must raise concern about a colleague’s health if there is a patient safety concern.

“It would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

A spokesman for NHS Lothian said it was unable to comment on matters relating to individual staff members.