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Mental health workers must commit to 'zero suicide' plans - deputy PM

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Mental health workers have been urged to commit to a “zero suicide” goal by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who is calling on trusts to introduce new measures that ensure no patient takes their own life.

Strategies to meet this goal could include continuing the contact between healthcare professionals and patients once they have been discharged from a ward, or providing information to friends and families about who to contact if they need help in the future, he said.

Speaking at an event at health charity the Kings Fund this morning, the deputy prime minister pointed to figures which show almost 4,700 people died by suicide in 2013 in England.

He challenged “every part of the NHS”  to follow the lead of some trusts that had already introduced programmes which have demonstrated suicide is preventable.

”I’m issuing a call to every part of the NHS to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides of people in their care”

Nick Clegg

Mr Clegg pointed to one mental health programme by Mersey Care Trust which has established a dedicated team to develop personalised safety plans for patients.

These identify issues which can trigger patients’ negative thoughts, provide ways to deal with high-risk moments, and ensure friends and family know who to contact during a crisis.

The deputy prime minister said: “This isn’t about blame. It is about doing more in every area of our society to ensure that people don’t get to that point where they believe taking their life is their only option.

“This includes in our health system. That’s why today I’m issuing a call to every part of the NHS to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides of people in their care.”

The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the announcement but called for more investment in mental health nurses.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said: “By investing in mental health nursing, the NHS can be a world leader in mental health and suicide prevention.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton

“It would be a tragedy if services were allowed to slip backwards due to a lack of investment just when the politicians are expressing enlightened views and laudable ambitions.”

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which represents NHS mental health and learning disability service providers, said: “The Liberal Democrats are rightly focussing on the ground-breaking work NHS funded providers are doing to reduce harm. There can be no more important goal than reducing, and in time eliminating, avoidable deaths.”

He added: “[Our challenge] to the new government in May is that they give the same priority to reducing harm in mental health as they have in physical healthcare.”

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Dear Nick,

    You have spotted that your government has presided over cuts in MH staffing numbers (just look at a couple of the linked stories here for example, let alone the stories that any of us from MH services could tell)?

    You do know that services such as crisis intervention, overdose assessment teams and the like who work with some of the highest risk groups have been cut? That those of us who were involved in developing services to work with self harming patients lost our jobs because of cuts you over saw?

    You do know that the Henry Ford healthcare model mentioned in your speech in such glowing terms is not what it appears to be, don't you? That they have selected out most of the highest risk groups by dint of being an insurance based, pay for service, scheme? That their figures for reduction in suicide rates come from their own pre-existing (ie seeking a service and able to pay for it) patient group and NOT from the wider population of Michigan or even Detroit?

    You had spotted all those things? You did know all that, didn't you?

    Now, you must have known all that, because even a lowly (ex-)minion like me does...So can you please publicly apologise for what you have over seen in terms of cuts to service provision since 2010?

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  • Oh, and you do know that, to borrow some figures a former colleague in adult liaison psychiatry collated one time, often up to half of those who kill themselves in a given area have never had any contact with MH services, over half will not even have seen a GP in the 4 weeks prior to their suicide, and there are VERY strong links between unemployment and social deprivation and suicide...All of which can be so easily controlled or modified by MH services, eh?

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  • please look after the staff so that the are also included in this 'Zero' figure!!!!!!

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