The funding made available to local authorities to develop suicide-prevention strategies is ‘too little and too late’, a report by the Commons Health Select Committee has said.
According to the report, 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 report states that it is not enough ‘simply to count the number of plans in existence’. Additionally, the authors note that while extra funding is welcome for suicide prevention, it must be delivered to the front-line services, rather than used for other purposes.
‘We welcome the provision of funding for suicide prevention guaranteed for 2018/19–2020/21,’ the report’s authors commented. ‘However, unless it is supported by other funding already committed by the Government to mental health, and unless that funding actually reaches the front line, we are concerned that it will not be sufficient to fund the suicide prevention activity required both to meet the Government’s target of a 10% reduction in suicides and to implement the strategy’
‘The funding is not getting through and little is known about the quality of local plans or their ability to reach the people who need support,’ said Ian Hulatt, RCN Professional Lead for Mental Health. ‘In far too many cases, people who die are known to be at higher risk but this is not discussed with family and friends who could help. Despite our expert advice, the Government is failing to improve this situation.’
The report also asserts that unreliable and inaccurate data hampers suicide prevention, as it is difficult to reliably assess which public-health initiatives are the most effective without consistency in the recording of suicide. Additionally, work needs to be undertaken to improve recognition of people who are at risk of suicide but not in contact with any health services. The authors state that a ‘joined-up’ approach is essential and local authorities’ suicide prevention plans should include a strategy for reaching those groups who are unlikely to access traditional services, particularly among men.
‘The clear message we have heard throughout our inquiry is that suicide is preventable,’ said Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Committee. ‘The current rate of suicide is unacceptable and is likely to under-represent the true scale of the loss of life.’