Birmingham doctor took her own life after feeling 'belittled' at work, inquest hears

Dr Vaishnavi Kumar (L) QE Hospital Birmingham (R) Credit: BPM/File

A Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital doctor who felt 'belittled' at work and endured a family bereavement tragically took her own life, an inquest found. 

Much-loved and gifted Dr Vaishnavi Kumar 'struggled to cope' with work stresses and often returned home crying.

The 35-year-old junior doctor, known as Vaish, who previously told how the Covid pandemic had "taken its toll", took a lethal cocktail of medication before waiting more than three hours to call for an ambulance. Despite resuscitation attempts she died on 22 June. 

Her father Ravi Kumar, who is also a doctor, told Birmingham Coroner's Court on Monday that his daughter felt the QE was a "hypercritical environment to work in".

Giving evidence at the inquest, he said: "She used to say it was a very hypercritical place. They used to pick up small little things. Belittle and be a bit condescending in the way they used to behave there... Most of the time she used to come back home and cry a little bit."

The QE Hospital in Birmingham Credit: File

The hearing was also told she was grieving the loss of her grandfather, who died in March.

But her career was said to be flourishing. Despite a 40-day absence, the talented doctor had caught up with training, which included an e-portfolio, and assessments needed to complete her junior doctor qualification, the hearing was told.

Her training supervisor Dr John Ayuk told the hearing that she did not inform him of any work stresses which could have contributed to her suicidal state of mind. He described his "shock and sadness" at her death.

Birmingham and Solihull Assistant Coroner Ian Dreelan said that Dr Kumar had previously contacted a mental health service in 2019. She self-referred again more recently "citing work stress and a recent family bereavement as contributory factors".

Dr Vaishnavi Kumar Credit: BPM

Dr Kumar had undergone a telephone assessment on May 28, 2022, where her answers indicated she had "severe depression and moderately severe anxiety".

Mr Dreelan said this led to a referral to a community mental health team but an appointment had not been arranged prior to her death. She was on a waiting list to be seen due to resource shortages and would get an appointment if there was a cancellation. But this information was not passed on to her, the hearing was told.

Giving his conclusion, Mr Dreelan said: "Vaish intended to take her own life and she intended to do so at the time she took it. I will find a conclusion of suicide in this case on the balance of probabilities and from the evidence I have heard."

After the case, a spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham said, "Dr Vaishnavi Kumar was a much loved and respected doctor who was popular with colleagues and patients alike.

"Her unexpected death was a tragedy, and our heartfelt condolences remain with Vaishnavi’s family."