Fifty Commit Suicide in Scottish Hospitals Research Reveals

Fifty people have taken their own lives in Scottish hospitals over the past four years, a new investigation indicates.

The deaths occurred despite repeated warnings over health and safety measures; including steps taken at Glasgow’s new £842 million flagship hospital.

The hospital refused to implement its board’s recommendations on risks to patients who wanted to take their own life.

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde defended the organisation, and stated that appropriate measures have been put in place.

“If a patient has been assessed as being at risk of harming themselves but needs acute clinical care, appropriate support will be put in place for that patient.”

Despite pledges from the Scottish government to reduce the number of suicides, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 50 patients have taken their own lives while in hospital over the past four years.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK, and the levels of suicide inside hospitals shows no signs of abating.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information requests indicate that the new Queen Elizabeth University hospital in Glasgow was built with ligature points; despite warnings from the board.

Last year a patient at the hospital died by suicide but board minutes from the autumn state that “no further action was planned with regard to ligature points although risk assessments would be undertaken to allocate ‘at risk’ patients to appropriate wards.”

Because it is a new hospital, board members indicate that they “found it regrettable that the specification for the area in question had not followed that of a psychiatric hospital. Mr Loudon noted that the design brief for the hospital had not asked for a full anti-ligature specification throughout the building.”

The minutes also comment that “Ms Brown was worried that members having pursued this for so long, that it was only now that an accredited risk assessment tool was being used to assess the risks. She endorsed the suspension of use of the roof garden and remained dissatisfied with the actions to identify and remove ligature points in the hospitals and that this should be reviewed further with a plan for removal.”

Roger Livermore, a former NHS inspector and prosecutor, was scathing on the situation, and indicated that the deaths should be considered preventable.

“These deaths really shouldn’t be happening. Such deaths should be extremely rare if they happen at all. The underlying problem is that Scottish ministers have refused to implement the law on patient safety. The philosophy has got to be no suicides whereas the current philosophy is to reduce suicides, but that is not what the law requires.”

Maureen Watt, the Minister for Mental Health, outlined her determination to address suicide in Scottish hospitals.

“Any death by suicide is a tragedy which has a terrible effect on a person’s family, friends and community. The Scottish suicide rate fell by 17.8% between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014. There is a considerable amount of work under way to ensure this downward trend continues. NHS boards do everything they can to prevent suicides from happening in hospitals.”


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