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Government calls for overhaul of how NHS deals with suicide

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Nick Clegg wants the NHS to use an approach pioneered in Detroit, US, where a scheme has reduced suicide rate among its patients by 75% within four years.

In England, a staggering 4,700 people killed themselves in 2013, a rise of over 6% in 2012. Clegg says suicide is preventable, not inevitable.

“We have to break this hidden assumption that nothing can be done to stop people from killing themselves.

“Suicide is one of the biggest killers of men under the age of 50 and if this was a physical health problem, there would be a national outcry.”

The call is for hospitals in the UK to adopt an approach that has worked well at the Henry Ford Medical Group in Detroit. Starting in 2001, the programme involved better staff training, more contact with patients and improved education for families of those at risk of suicide.

Within four years, the suicide rate among the group’s patients fell by 75% and by 2008 they had managed to stop all suicides among patients.

The Merseycare NHS Trust in Liverpool was inspired and is embarking on a similar strategy, aiming to:

  • Initiate a 24/7 ‘Safe from Suicide Team’ consisting of experts who can quickly and efficiently assess patients at risk of suicide.
  • Improve the care of those who arrive at accident and emergency with signs of self-harm, offering them therapies and following up once they are discharged.
  • Improve data collection to gain a better understanding of how and where patients are most at risk, enabling the hospital to target their resources.

Medical director at the trust, Dr David Fearnley, believes that within 18 months they will see a noticeable decrease in the number of patients who complete suicide.

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Katherine Nicholls

Written by Katherine Nicholls

Kat is a Content Producer for Memiah and writer for Counselling Directory and Happiful magazine.

Written by Katherine Nicholls

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