19 / 12 / 2016 10.05am
The Health Select Committee has published its interim report on suicide prevention ahead of a revised strategy, due to be published by the Government in January 2017.
The interim report brings together key themes from witnesses to the Committee’s inquiry. The committee received over 150 submissions and heard oral evidence from a range of organisations and individuals.
A full report will follow next year once the strategy has been published and witnesses have been invited to give their views. In the meantime, the report outlines five key areas for consideration by the Government:
- Services to support people who are vulnerable to suicide
- Consensus statement on sharing information with families
- The message from stakeholders was that implementation of the Government’s 2012 suicide prevention strategy has been characterised by inadequate leadership, poor accountability and insufficient action.
- Over the past four years there has been a failure to translate the suicide prevention strategy in to actual improvements.
- Implementation of recently published guidance on suicide from Public Health England for local authorities needs to be robustly monitored and enforced.
- There has been no published monitoring of the current suicide strategy.
- The refreshed suicide prevention strategy must be underpinned by a clear implementation strategy, with strong national leadership, clear accountability and regular and transparent external scrutiny.
- The committee recommend that the government’s updated strategy should include a clear implementation programme. Local areas need a clear message from the top that suicide prevention plans are mandatory.
Services to support people who are vulnerable to suicide
- Of those who have ended their lives by suicide, approximately one third have not been in contact with health services in the year before their death, approximately one third are in contact with their GP preceding their death, but are not receiving specialist mental health services and approximately one third are under specialist mental health services.
- The committee found that there are three distinct groups of people at risk from suicide and different approaches are needed for each
- For those not in contact with services there needs to be greater emphasis on public mental health and wellbeing
- For those in contact with primary care services GPs need better training in suicide risk. NICE guidelines should be promoted and implemented across primary care
- All patients being discharged from inpatient care should receive follow up support within three days of discharge
- All suicide prevention plans should include mandatory provision of support services for families who have been bereaved by suicide
Consensus statement on sharing information with families
- Although a patient’s right to confidentiality is paramount, there are instances where professionals sharing information – with consent – with a person’s trusted family or friends could save their life. Stronger action needs to be taken to raise awareness of the Consensus Statement, to train staff in this area (including training on how to seek consent) and to engender a culture shift away from the current presumption that suicidal patients will not want their family or friends to be involved in their recovery.
- Accurate and timely statistics are essential both for the development and evaluation of suicide prevention policy.
- The Committee found that there is a need for a more rapid provisional notification of suicide at the time when a suspected death by suicide occurs. We recommend that the Government take action to improve consistency between coroners and to make routine the use of provisional notifications of suicide.
- Irresponsible media reporting and portrayals of suicide can lead to copycat behaviour, especially among young people and those already at risk
- The committee recommend that suicide prevention strategy should review the accountability and responsibility for the adherence to media guidelines. It should make clear who is responsible for dealing with breaches by the media, at national and local level and should include a commitment by the Government to work with internet providers and social media platforms to consider what changes should be made to restrict access to sites which encourage self-harm or give detailed advice on suicide methods.
The Committee will scrutinise the updated strategy and hold a follow-up hearing with key stakeholders to hear their views before publishing a full report
Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Network, said:
“We completely agree with the Committee that a lot more can be done to prevent suicide and support people in crises. Developing mental health services is essential but money hasn’t come as quickly as promised and this is holding-up progress.
For too long we have seen year-on-year increases in prison suicide and there are worrying trends around childrens’ mental health too, with insufficient investment to improve their care. Suicide rates are among their highest in 20 years and we urgently need them to fall, so we encourage the Government to take on board the Committee’s findings and implement a much more robust suicide strategy in 2017.”