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MPs urge government to take stronger action against suicide

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Suicide can affect anybody Levels of suicide are increasing, but most cases are preventable

A leading group of MPs has said that the scale of suicides in the UK has now reached 'unacceptable' levels

The Health Select Committee released an interim report on suicide to inform the government's refresh of the suicide prevention strategy which is expected to be released in January 2017.

The Health Select Committee's report into suicide prevention covers five key areas: implementation, services, sharing information with families, data and the media's approach to covering suicides.

The report stated that the government's previous suicide strategy released in 2012 was 'characterised by inadequate leadership, poor accountability, and insufficient action.' The committee said that there was a 'failure to translate the suicide prevention strategy into actual improvements. Implementation, which is largely the responsibility of local authorities and local health services, has been highly variable and subject to insufficient oversight'. The Committee recommends that the updated strategy in 2017 has a clear implementation plan in order to ensure the recommendations translate into the NHS and local authorities.

The report highlighted that approximately a third of people who ended their lives by suicide were in contact with their GP but were not in contact with specialist mental health services. A third were found to have had no contact with the health service at all. The final third of people who end their lives by suicide are under the care of specialist mental health services. The report recommended that mental health training is provided for staff in public facing roles, especially in higher risk situations, and there is better training in suicide risk for primary care staff. NICE guidelines should be promoted and implemented across primary care.

'Nurses and other health staff have considerable expertise in working to prevent suicide, though identifying those at risk and making the right intervention can be very challenging, especially with the enormous pressures on a small workforce,' said Ian Hulatt, the professional lead for mental health nursing at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Mr Hulatt said that the RCN has worked with the government and other organisations on the Consensus Statement which aims to improve information and support for families who are concerned about a relative who may be at risk of suicide. THe Health Select Committe, highlighted that this document should be heeded. Through the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, the RCN has also contributed to Help is at Hand, a booklet to support people bereaved through suicide.

The Health Select Committee said they will be publishing a full report following the release of the updated suicide prevention strategy in the new year.

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