Wife of Birmingham doctor says mental health issues 'caused by work' led to his suicide

Andrew Haldane was a consultant anaesthetist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Army medic. Credit: BPM MEDIA

The wife of a doctor and Army medic who took his own life says she believes mental health issues "caused by his work" led to his death, an inquest heard.

Andrew Haldane was a consultant anaesthetist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in and Army Medic. Mr Haldane worked throughout the pandemic helping Covid patients into intensive care.

He had juggled his work in the NHS with his senior role for the Army, flying to rescue Special Forces soldiers from battlefields at short notice.

The dad-of-three from Droitwich drove to a remote country lane to take his own life in June last year.

A missing persons appeal came to a tragic end in a remote Worcestershire village of Abberley.

His wife said the fact he had 50 days holiday carried over when he died should have been a warning sign, an inquest heard.

Mr Haldane's body was seen in the driver’s seat of his silver Ford Focus in Netherton Lane on June 8, Worcestershire Coroner’s Court heard.

Next to him, a handwritten note was found.

It was read out in court saying: "The things that make me happy no longer outweigh the things that make me sad. I love you more than you will ever know."

Sarah Murphy, assistant coroner for Worcestershire, recorded a verdict of suicide, saying the death was caused by toxicity of a prescription-only drug he'd taken from the hospital.

A police search of Mr Haldane’s computer while he was missing found that he had looked up ‘how families cope after suicide’.

Mrs Haldane told the inquest that she feared he was suffering with “PTSD, depression, burnout or all three” in the two months before he went missing.

Joining the Army in 1997, Lt Col Haldane served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and North Africa.

He’d worked previously at Solihull Hospital and was described in court by relatives and hospital colleagues as incredibly intelligent, quiet, humble, confident, kind, generous and a "man who rarely doubted himself”.

He was based with Birmingham’s Royal Centre of Defence Medicine(RCDM) and seconded to the Edgbaston-based hospital as an anaesthetist when home.

He was clinical lead for 127 Squadron in 16 Medical Regiment, attached to the Parachute Regiment and Special Foces based in Colchester.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said an investigation after his death found no record of any mental health issues in his medical notes.

University Hospitals Birmingham Trust also said Mr Haldane had not raised any problems in his regular appraisals.

Mrs Haldane told the inquest that when he returned from an Army operation in April, her husband was “short-tempered” and “getting stressed about things easy to fix” but got angry when she mentioned it.

Recalling the weekend before he went missing, she said: “I asked him if he should see a GP as he hadn’t been himself for some months and he got cross.”

She told the court: "When on standby, he could be given anything from a few hours notice or couple of weeks to go away.

"He never complained about this as he saw it as his duty… but would find it difficult.

“In the few months before his death, I started to wonder if his symptoms were features of PTSD, depression, burnout or all three.

"I reflected on his Army career and experiences during Covid and excessive requirements of both aspects of his work over the last few years.

“I believe my husband’s death has been caused by mental health issues caused by his work commitments.

"Not only was he deployed to dangerous places and experienced horrific things, his commitments have escalated seemingly unchecked for the last couple of years.

“I believe Andy fell through the net with welfare support. The combination of committing to a life of service, doing an excellent job and never saying ‘no’ was to Andy’s detriment, ultimately."

The court was told the doctor was expected to do an average of 10 hours a week for the NHS, which built up if he was away on Army duties.

He had carried over 50 days of annual leave, yet to be taken, when he died. His wife said this number of holiday days untaken should have "triggered a welfare concern".

Assistant Coroner Miss Murphy ruled there was no reason to suspect the MOD knew or ought to have known there was any risk to Lt Col Haldane's life as he had passed mental health screening in 2021 and there were policies in place that provided support and encouraged soldiers to seek help.

She also noted the doctor had not raised concerns over his mental health to his Army managers or personnel at the QE Hospital and would have had access to its various wellbeing services.

Miss Murphy added: "Mr Haldane had an extremely demanding job and he was extremely conscientious. It is nothing but a tragedy that he didn't seek help. There was absolutely nothing more Dr Haldane could have done to help her husband.

"We'll never know why he chose to end his own life. He never said what made him unhappy. This was an absolute tragedy for a brilliant man.

"He lived an exemplary life dedicated to his country and dedicated to his family. For this to happen to such a talented young man with such a bright future is the most distressing thing."

If you have been affected by the issues in this story, you can call samaritans on 116 123.