Search site



Obituary: Dr Philip Snaith

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 28 November 2003, of Dr Philip Snaith, former Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Psychiatry.

Born in 1933, Dr Snaith read Medicine at Guys Hospital Medical School, University of London and graduated in 1957; he was awarded his MD by the same university in 1966. After qualification, Dr Snaith held a series of psychiatric appointments at hospitals in Derby, Haywards Heath and Leeds before being appointed, in 1967, as a Consultant in Psychiatry at Stanley Royd Hospital, Wakefield. He spent nine very successful years at Stanley Royd, establishing a reputation as an extremely capable clinical psychiatrist, with an exceptionally enquiring and scientific mind. He proved to be a very successful postgraduate tutor, with a flair for teaching and a strong commitment to the training needs of junior and paramedical staff. During this period, he also served on, and became chair of, the committee of the Leeds Regional Psychiatric Association; and acted as psychiatric adviser to the Leeds and Wakefield sections of the Samaritans in whose work he had taken an active interest since the start of his own psychiatric training as well as to the Wakefield and District Marriage Guidance Council.

In 1976, the year in which he was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Snaith took up appointment as Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in the then Department of Psychiatry within the University. During the twenty-plus years he held this post, he achieved an international reputation for his major contributions to a number of areas of psychiatry, notably the psychometrics of emotional disorders and the development of self-assessment scales for anxiety and depressive illness, on which he published extensively. Building on previous work at Leeds by the late Professor Max Hamilton, Dr Snaith and his collaborator, Dr A S Zigmond, devised the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Translated into more than twenty languages, this scale is in use world-wide and is particularly suited to research into the emotional aspects of physical illness. The article on HADS published by Dr Snaith and Dr Zigmond in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica in 1983 remains one of the most frequently cited entries in medical literature.

Dr Snaith had a long-standing interest in the nature, origins and treatment of neurotic disorders. His book Clinical Neurosis was published in 1981, with a second edition appearing ten years later. Both editions were very favourably reviewed and have become widely known among trainee and practising psychiatrists in the UK, Europe and the USA. Over a period of two decades, Dr Snaith also evolved and refined a cognitive-behavioural method of anxiety management, known as Anxiety Control Training. This self-management technique, described in the book Anxiety in Clinical Practice, jointly written by Dr Snaith and Professor Andrew Sims and published in 1988, continues to be widely applied within the clinical context and was also used over many years by Dr Snaith to help students whose performance in examinations was being seriously impaired by anxiety.

Based at St Jamess University Hospital, Dr Snaith was responsible for a number of important service developments, including the organisation of multidisciplinary regional services for psychosurgery and gender reassignment. He published a number of important articles on each of these subjects.

Dr Snaith enjoyed a long association with the British Journal of Psychiatry, serving on the Editorial Board and, from 1987 to 1990, as Associate Editor. He was also an assistant editor of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. His academic rigour and integrity made him widely respected among his peers. Dr Snaith was also generous in his support of more junior colleagues, many of whom he introduced to clinical research, guiding and supporting their early work. He supervised many dissertations for the MMedSc in Clinical Psychiatry and, during his time as convenor of the committee for the Psychiatry element of the undergraduate medical course, was responsible for the introduction of the Long Case task, requiring students to write a detailed account of a patient and to review the relevant literature.

Dr Snaiths outside interests included the history of science and he took an active part in the establishment of a museum of psychiatric history at Stanley Royd Hospital. He was also a keen member of Leeds Civic Trust and The Yorkshire Medical and Dental History Society, and a gifted linguist.

Dr Snaith retired in December 1997, after twenty-one years in post.

The funeral will be held at 11.40am on Tuesday 9 December 2003 at Lawnswood Crematorium, Otley Road, Leeds 16. The flag will be flown at half-mast on Tuesday in tribute to Dr Snaith.

Published: 2 December 2003