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Mental health units told to remove bin bags after suicides

Scotland’s largest health board has been told to remove plastic bin liners from all its mental health wards after two patients took their own lives.

The Health and Safety Executive took the unusual step as part of an investigation into deaths at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow and Dykebar Hospital in Paisley. Both patients suffocated.

The watchdog issued a prohibition notice to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure plastic bin bags were removed from all mental health wards by 16 April.

“Following a full investigation into a tragic suicide in 2012 and a subsequent suicide in 2014, the HSE recommended the removal of small bin liners in our mental health wards,” the health board said in a statement. “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has fully complied with this recommendation.”

The move, which affected 15 hospitals and inpatient facilities, has raised questions about the use of bin liners in mental health wards across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: “NHS Scotland must now move swiftly to consider whether this is an appropriate measure to adopt across Scotland’s health boards.”

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Jim Hume MSP

A spokeswoman from the Health and Safety Executive told Nursing Times it would also be contacting NHS officials in England and Wales in order to discuss the issue.

“Our immediate actions have so far been focused on these two investigations,” she said. “NHS boards in Scotland are responsible for managing their own risks to staff, patients and visitors and we would expect those operating mental health wards to manage those risks proportionately and in line with their own risk assessments and procedures.

“HSE will be contacting NHS Scotland officials to discuss appropriate standards across the board and similar contacts will be made in England and Wales,” she added.

Readers' comments (5)

  • How awful must the poor patients lives be when they are so desperate to escape the regime they will kill themselves. Never mind the bin bags look at the conditions and treatment they are receiving!
    It must need improving.

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  • one of my patients cut his oxygen supply tubing in two, put Eau de Cologne in the humidifier and dipped the two cut ends of the tubing into the bottle and had it bubbling at 8 litres/min. He also slashed his wrist to make sure the job was done. I was the first to find him when I came on duty after ward report just after 7 am.

    Another jumped from the 7th floor window at 6 am from a 6-bedded room and the other patients never said a word about it although somebody must have been awake to witness it. He had taken a chair to the window. We had already informed the psychiatric consultant the day before that a nurse had found a noose prepared from his dressing gown belt in his cupboard. An HCA from the ward who had just come on duty was asked to go and identify him where he had fallen onto a flat roof by the hospital entrance.

    The third sadly was discovered by our very emotive Southern Italian ward maid during the afternoon. He was lying in the bath with the water running having slashed his femoral artery and when the crash team arrived sometime later they insisted on trying to resuscitate him for a considerable length of time and overtime for some of us and we concluded that it was practice purposes.


    All of this took place on a general medical ward.

    My first experience of suicide was on a medical ward during first year training but trained colleagues and not the students dealt with it. The patient was in bed and had severed an artery with a glass urinal (mid 1970s).

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  • I find the first comment offensive. There is no indication in the report that either of these people committed suicide because of the conditions they were in. All mental health units must strive to make the unit as safe as possible, together with a sufficient number of
    properly trained staff of all disciplines and a range of therapeutic modalities.

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  • all my respect for mental health nurses who confront so dificult situations at work

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  • Dear Steve Holand,
    You don't state your occupation, but it appears from your comments that you are a RMN, & I speaking from my own personal experience from "BOTH SIDES", find YOUR COMMENTS OFFENSIVE! There have been times when as a patient I was NOT "Suicidal"-(& "SUICIDE" IS SO DANGEROUSLY MISS-UNDERSTOOD, THAT IT IS OBSCENE) however due to the "treatment" of certain staff towards myself, I have subsequently done EVERYTHING THAT I COULD POSSIBLY THINK OFVTO TRY TO KILL MYSELF, which on one particular occasion led to my being sectioned & put on the "LOCKED WARD", where as soon as I was left alone, I tried again, which then led to my being watched 24/7, I then get sent home straight after this 72 hour section, now the Psychiatrist, ( who himself was an alcoholic), may well have thought that he was " being kind to me", as having severe OCD, a Psychiatric unit is one of THE WORST PLACES ONE BE IN! -ironically though, as after my attempt on the locked ward, I had been moved to a room with a wetfloor room shower & loo, which also being physically disabled & unable to stand to shower was a much better situation for me to be in! Anyway THIS MOVE BY THIS PSYCHIATRIST WAS CERTAINLY NOT BEING KIND TO MY HUSBAND IN THE SHORT TERM, & IN THE LONGER TERM IT DID NOT EXACTLY HELP OUR MARRIAGE EITHER. THE SUBSEQUENT RESULT WAS THAT I WAS FOUND ( & ONLY THANKS TO THE PERSISTENCE OF A VERY WORRIED FRIEND) UNCONSCIOUS & I HAD ASPIRATED INTO MY LUNGS, I SPENT TWO WEEKS ON LIFE SUPPORT, WITH MY MOTHER BEING TOLD THE DAY AFTER I WAS FOUND "TO EXPECT ME TO DIE" I HAD BEEN SO ILL THAT I DID NOT EVEN REALISE THAT MY HUSBAND HAD LEFT ME, & I STILL HAVE NO MEMORY OF THE SUBSTANTIAL OVERDOSE THAT I HAD APPARENTLY TAKEN.AFTER 9/11, I HAVING OCD HAD BLAMED MYSELF, TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT THE DOCTORS HAD THOUGHT THAT I HAD SUFFERED A STROKE, FROM WHAT I HAVE SUBSEQUENTLY LEARNED, IT WAS MORE LIKE WHAT WAS DESCRIBED AS "SHELL SHOCK" DURING WORLD WAR 1. However due to the thoughtless words from a GP to my husband, I decided that it would be better for everyone, especially my husband if I were to kill myself.
    Prior to this time I had thought that I would NEVER AGAIN END UP AS AN INPATIENT!!, & had been very active in the service user movement, however despite this I was completely ignorant about basic things, like the fact that my husband, as my carer should have had an assessment done OF HIS NEEDS. INDEED WHILST I WAS ON LIFE SUPPORT HE RECEIVED A PHONE CALL FROM SOMEONE HIGH UP IN MANAGEMENT, WHO KNEW US BOTH, & ENTIRELY OF THEIR OWN VOLITION ASKED MY HUSBAND IF HE WANTED TO MAKE AN OFFICIAL COMPLAINT, THEY KNEW FAR BETTER THAN WE DID OF HOW WE HAD BORH BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY FAILED BY THE SYSTEM, MY HUSBAND BY THEN WAS TOO TRAUMATISED & ILL HIMSELF TO DO THIS AT THAT POINT IN TIME, WE DID GET BACK TOGETHER & INITIATED A COMPLAINT WITH AN ADVOCATE'S HELP, & HAD GOT THE STANDARD REPLY BACK, BUT AS WE WERE ABOUT TO GO CAMPING, WE WERE ADVISED TO FORGET ABOUT IT FOR NOW, & TO DECIDE AFTER WE GOT HOME. HOWEVER DUE TO MY BEING ILL ADVISED I HAD TAKEN MYSELF OFF OF A PARTICULAR MEDICATION, BECAUSE BY THIS TIME, DESPITE ALL THE REALLY HARD WORK THAT MY HUSBAND HAD PUT IN AFTER BUYING OUR COTTAGE, AS WELL AS HOLDING DOWN A FULL-TIME SHIFT WORK JOB, LOOKING AFTER MYSELF, & OUR HOME, & ALL THE WORK ON THE GARDEN, HE HAD BECOME VERY DISILLUSIONED BY THE ATTITUDE OF OUR NEIGHBOURS, ( When I broke my leg, on returning home, one neighbour had brought round a homemade cake for us, but coming out of a Psychiatric Unit, I was treated worse than if I'd still had " BUBONIC PLAUGE", & he just wanted to sell up, buy a large campervan & travel, one major concern for him was obtaining my medication, so that was why I thought that I would ask about stopping taking it, things unfortunately only become so blatantly clear in retrospect, & I went "DOWN THE PAN" too fast to even realise what was happening to me, but it most definitely was one of the biggest mistakes of my life! Anyway, I ought to cease on this line here, & please excuse my "Typical Asperger's" ramblings.
    The thing is even back then the OFFICIAL LINE FROM THE CEO WAS THAT THE PSYCHIATRIC UNITS WERE " NOT MEANT TO BE THERAPEUTIC ENVIRONMENTS"!! REALLY I AM NOT JOKING, THEY WERE FOR "CONTAINMENT & CONTROL", WHICH SOUNDS RATHER LIKE A " DOUBLE JEOPARDY" PRISON REGIME TO ME, ( THE PUNISHMENT IS MEANT TO BE THE LOSS OF ONE'S LIBERTY)
    Fast forward nearly a decade & a half & things have just got SO MUCH WORSE, OH ON THE FACE OF IT EVERYONE NOW HAS THEIR OWN ROOM, WITH ENSUITE SHOWER & LOO, ( I very much doubt that they have made any changes for wheelchair accessibility though!), but NOW THERE ARE SO FEW BEDS, THAT IN REALITY IT IS ONLY THOSE WHO ARE SECTIONED, OR THREATENED WITH IT IF THEY REFUSE TO GO IN " VOLUNTARILY", (which as "Joe Public" would NOT realise that this is the reality, so it is further exploited to,preserve the myth that they have "Informal" patients, which most would think of as for those who need respite, or "Asylum" in it's true sense of the word). Also I bet most of those admitted these days where I live are only those who "Pose a threat to the public", then secondly their families, & running a VERY POOR 3rd place those who are at risk of killing themselves, but hey "IT IS NOT ALL DOOM & GLOOM" ( with apologies to Russell Howard), the current CEO "HAS CHANGED IT "THE TRUST" around from "A SIGNIFICANT LOSS, TO A SURPLUS!!", OH , THAT MUST BE SO VERY REASSURING FOR THE FAMILIES OF THE 4 PEOPLE, WHO ON JUST ONE UNIT ALONE HAVE BECOME " SERIOUS UNTOWARD INCIDENTS", THEY SUCCESSFULLY KILLED THEMSELVES IS WHAT THEY ARE REFERRING TO ON THEIR WEBSITE. WHAT I WOULD CALL A " SERIOUS UNTOWARD INCIDENT" is a FAILED SUICIDE ATTEMPT, OR A SERIOUS CASE OF SELF HARMING, ME SETTING MYSELF ON FIRE ( OUTSIDE) FOR INSTANCE, BUT THOSE NUMBERS GO UNRECORDED ON THEIR WEBSITE!, TO SAY NOTHING OF HOW MANY ( WHICH NOW MAKE UP THE MAJORITY OF THEIR PATIENTS) UNDER "CARE IN THE COMMUNITY" KILL THEMSELVES, OR TRY TO!
    ONE TIP, NEXT TIME YOU ARE MET WITH A SITUATION WHERE SOMEONE IS ABOUT TO KILL THEMSELVES, OR YOU BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE SERIOUSLY PLANNING TO, OR ARE THINKING ABOUT IT, DO NOT ASK THE DUMB QUESTION " ARE YOU FEELING SUICIDAL?", TRY ASKING THEM THIS, "DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DIE, OR FO YOU JUST WANT THE PAIN TO END?", SUCH SIMPLE WORDS, BUT SO VERY POWERFUL, THEY INVITE A DIALOGUE, & NO MATTER HOW "UNDER QUALIFIED" ANYONE MAY THINK THAT THEY ARE, WE ARE ALL HUMAN, & WE ALL CAN BE THERE, & LISTEN, REALLY LISTEN, ( regardless of physical deafness, language barriers etc.) &. NEVER FORGET THAT IT COSTS NOTHING TO OFFER A HUG, ( I DO REALISE THAT FOR " PROFESSIONALS" THIS IS A DODGY AREA, BUT IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE ELSE, & THAT HUMAN TOUCH, EVEN JUST OFFERING A HAND FOR THEM TO HOLD, OR HOLDING THEIR HAND IF THEY HAVE THE COURAGE TO OFFER IT TO YOU, IS REALLY POWERFUL MEDICINE!)

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