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 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