The publication of a progress report on the suicide prevention strategy of the government has drawn a strong response from the Health Committee.
While the committee welcomed the conclusions of the report, it asserted that the government must take tangible action to ensure effective implementation.
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.
This is the third such report produced in recent years.
Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, suggested that there is room of improvement in dealing with this sensitive issue.
“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.”
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.
The Health Committee concluded that it is not enough simply to count the number of plans in existence; there must also be a clear, effective quality assurance process and implementation at local and national level.
While the government’s provision of funding for suicide prevention was welcomed, the Committee is concerned that it will be too little and too late to implement the strategy as effectively as required.
The Health Committee particularly called for a joined-up approach to coordinate all these activities.
It is also considered essential that local authorities’ suicide prevention plans should include a strategy for reaching those who are unlikely to access the traditional services.
Men should be a focus of this policy as it is known that they are more vulnerable to suicide.
However, the committee expressed its disappointment that the government had not gone further to drive practical prevention for known vulnerable groups.
It thus urged the government to accept the recommendation that all patients that are discharged from inpatient care should receive follow up support within three days.
The Health Committee also called 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, outlined the position of the authoritative organisation.
“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.”