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Paignton woman took her own life after call to out-of-hours doctors

By HEPaulGreaves  |  Posted: August 24, 2014

HM Coroner

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A PAIGNTON woman took her own life shortly after telling an out-of-hours doctor that she was feeling suicidal.

Angela Hall, 66, was prescribed diazepam and told to contact her GP the next day by the medical professional from Devon Doctors.

She took a single tablet of the drug to calm her anxiety and was left alone at her home on Clifton Road.

But when her partner returned a short time later, he found her hanging in the bathroom.

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A coroner’s inquest has found she took her own life.

After the hearing, Ms Hall’s son, Lee Mutch, criticised a system which, he says, does not provide adequate on-call care for vulnerable people in Torbay at weekends.

He said he had written a letter of complaint to Devon Doctors and was considering legal action.

Mr Mutch added: “We are not looking to blame anybody but it seems like a catalogue of disasters.

“My mother’s GP doesn’t work on the weekend so you have to call Devon Doctors.

“The fact is, if you ring on a Sunday and ask for help then the help isn’t adequate enough. It costs my mother her life.”

The inquest was told Mrs Hall, a retired carer with a history of anxiety, lived with her partner of 15 years Martin Hellyer in Paignton.

Police and paramedics were called to her home address on Sunday, March 9 after she was found dead by Mr Hellyer.

He told the inquest that earlier that day she had told him she was feeling depressed.

On March 9, Ms Hall spoke over the phone to Dr Anisio Velosa from Devon Doctors. A transcript of their conversation was read at the inquest.

He asked her whether she had thoughts about taking her own life. She said she had.

Dr Velosa prescribed a single 2mg tablet of diazepam and told her to contact her GP as soon as possible the next day.

Ms Hall expressed concerns that the medication would not be strong enough as she had taken a different medication in the past for depression.

The doctor said he was restricted in what he could prescribe but told her one tablet would help to calm her down and to contact Torbay Hospital immediately if she ‘reached crisis point’.

“You definitely need to book an appointment with your GP tomorrow,” he reiterated.

Mr Hellyer went to the pharmacy to pick up the medication. He made two trips because it was not ready on his first visit.

He told the inquest he was expecting a doctor to come to the house to see his partner.

“I was told somebody would be there in 10 minutes but they never came,” he said.

“If somebody had got to her she would have been still living.”

Ms Hall took the medication and was left in a comfortable position on the sofa in the lounge.

Mr Hellyer had to leave the house for a short time and when he returned she was dead.

A police investigation found no suspicious circumstances.

A post mortem examination found she had died as a result of the hanging.

Ian Arrow, coroner for South Devon and Torbay, said it was a self-inflicted death.

After the inquest Devon Doctors released a statement.

It said: "Devon Doctors has extended its deepest sympathies to the family of Ms Hall.

"In the light of today's inquest, we will be contacting Ms Hall's family again, with this in mind, it would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment at this stage." 

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