Inquest hears of Devizes man's depression

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Trevor Smith as a young man Trevor Smith as a young man

Devizes GP Dr Charles Cowen told an inquest he took seriously a father’s concern for his son who had a history of suicide attempts.

Dr Cowen, of Lansdowne Surgery, was the GP of Trevor Smith and had treated him over seven years for depression and alcohol dependency.

Mr Smith, 36, hanged himself in his flat in Massey Road, Devizes, on July 6 last year. His drinking problem began after he failed a medical, due to having asthma, to join the Army when he left school.

The inquest into his death was opened in May but adjourned because of concerns by Mr Smith’s father, Nick Smith, that Dr Cowen’s written statement did not refer to a conversation he (Mr Smith) had with his own GP at Lansdowne Surgery, Dr Elizabeth Madigan, about an abusive text message he had received from Trevor and his worries about Trevor’s behaviour.

At the resumed inquest on Thursday in Salisbury Dr Cowen attended and gave evidence.

He said Dr Madigan did tell him of the text message Nick Smith had received from Trevor Smith and as a result checked Trevor’s medical records.

He found Trevor had arranged an appointment to see him for the following week and also saw that he had been collecting his prescription for an anti-depressant and thought it was appropriate to keep that appointment, but Trevor was found dead four days before the appointment.

Dr Cowen said: “We didn’t think the information in the text message in itself demonstrated any particular risk. Dr Madigan didn’t describe the concern she had reported to her as ‘red flag’, just a deterioration in Trevor’s general health. The text message had been received a month earlier and in a sense it wasn’t immediate. I think what we did was appropriate for the concern raised.”

He said if the concerns had been reported that Trevor wanted to kill himself he would have taken urgent action, by contacting Trevor or his family.

Nick Smith was aggrieved that he was referred to as a “third party” and was described as having had “a passing conversation” with Dr Madigan in Dr Cowen’s new statement to the Coroner.

Dr Cowen apologised for the wording but said the reason he couldn’t identify Nick Smith in his statement was due to the rules on patient confidentiality.

Questioning Dr Cowen Nick Smith, of Colston Road, Devizes, said: “It reads as though you don’t attach much importance to Trevor and it almost seems to trivialise the matter.”

Dr Cowen said: “The words were not intended to insinuate any lack of gravity. If it gave you the wrong impression, I’m sorry for that.”

Assistant Coroner Dr Claire Balysz recorded a verdict that Trevor Smith took his own life and said: “On the basis of the evidence I have heard I am sure that Trevor intended the act that he undertook to cause his death.

“I don’t believe it was a cry for help. In the past he had tried to take his own life by using overdoses. This was a very definite method.”

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