Government's suicide prevention strategy needs greater focus on implementation

16 March 2017

The Government has published a progress report on its suicide prevention strategy but it must take tangible action to ensure effective implementation. So says the Health Committee in its final report on suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention strategy

In December 2016, the Committee published an interim report on suicide prevention in order to inform the Government's updated suicide prevention strategy. The Government has now published its update to the strategy in the form of a progress report, the third of its kind.

Witnesses to the inquiry told the Committee that the underlying Government strategy is essentially sound but that the key problem lies with inadequate implementation. 95% of local authorities now have a suicide prevention plan, but there is currently little or no information about the quality of those plans. It is not enough simply to count the number of plans in existence—there must be a clear, effective quality assurance process and implementation at local and national level.

The Government's provision of funding for suicide prevention is welcome but the Committee is concerned that it will be too little and too late to implement the strategy as effectively as required. The Government must set out how it will make sure that funding is available for the actions outlined in their strategy.

"Suicide is preventable"

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said:

"The clear message we have heard throughout our inquiry is that suicide is preventable. The current rate of suicide is unacceptable and is likely to under-represent the true scale of the loss of life."

There is a clear need to reach people who are at risk of suicide but not in contact with any health services. The voluntary sector plays a vital role in suicide prevention as do those groups working in non-clinical settings. There needs to be a joined-up approach to coordinate all these activities and it is essential that local authorities' suicide prevention plans should include a strategy for reaching those who are unlikely to access the traditional services, particularly men.

The Committee is disappointed that the Government has not gone further to drive practical prevention for known vulnerable groups and urges Government to accept the recommendation that all patients who are discharged from inpatient care should receive follow up support within three days. The NHS workforce shortfall is the key barrier to this goal and the Committee would like to see further progress in tackling this.

Information sharing

In too many cases, those who have died by suicide were known to be at higher risk but that risk has been poorly communicated or not discussed at all with those who could have protected them. The Committee calls on the Government and the Medical Royal Colleges to take further action to promote the Consensus Statement on information sharing.

The Committee also calls on the Government to take further action to improve the quality and consistency of the recording of suicide in order to establish the most effective preventive measures.

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said:

"If the Government wishes to be truly ambitious in reducing the toll of suicide, there are many further steps which it could take, which we have set out in this report. The Government must prioritise effective implementation of its strategy because without it, any strategy is of very limited value."

Further information

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