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Suicide Prevention Strategy set for debate

​A comprehensive strategy which sets out how Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) will work with service users, carers and partners to reduce the number of people who take their own lives will be discussed by the Trust’s Board on Thursday (23 February).

The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2017 – 2022 underlines the Trust’s commitment to consistently delivering the fundamental aspects of safe care, such as training, learning from events, ensuring seven-day follow-up from inpatient services and providing safe environments and services which meet the needs of the community.

It details five priorities for improvement, which have been developed over the past six months in partnership with service users, carers, staff and stakeholders, and also take into account learning from local cases. They are:

• Focus on the safety of clinical pathways and get the essentials of assessment and care planning right every time to make a positive difference to the lives of service users. To do this, NSFT will:
    o Increase the availability of male-specific interventions within the community
    o Develop the care pathway for people experiencing affective disorders such as depression or anxiety
    o Develop the care pathway for people in crisis
    o Ensure the right clinical support is available at the time it is needed
    o Examine and develop the safety for service users on discharge

• Further enhance the support given to families and carers. To do this, NSFT will:
    o Make every contact counts by listening and responding to the information families and carers provide
    o Provide more information about safety and suicide risk
    o Be open and provide as much information as possible to support the role of carers and families, with respect to the boundaries of confidentiality
    o Continue to implement the NSFT Service User and Carer Strategy to ensure that they are at the centre of care
    o Encourage family and carer education through the Recovery College

• Support staff with the most up-to-date skills and knowledge to enhance their understanding of suicide. To do this, NSFT will:
    o Review its risk assessment and suicide prevention training
    o Provide staff with the skills and knowledge to support those with a chronic risk of suicide
    o Support staff in situations where it is appropriate to discuss an individual’s risks with families and carers without their explicit consent
    o Support staff to develop safety plans that meet the needs of the individual

• Use best practice and innovation from elsewhere while also testing new ideas locally to reduce suicide. To do this, NSFT will:
    o Follow up people who have experienced acute distressing events and who have had a single or brief contact with Trust services
    o Establish a working group to explore the principles and implications of open dialogue within clinical practice, which is a care model that places service user and carers as equals in their care
    o Explore how the Trust, in combination with its partners, may introduce community spaces where people in acute mental distress may seek support

• Continue to work with partners to deliver countywide actions developed in conjunction with Norfolk and Suffolk’s multi-agency suicide prevention groups.

The Trust’s strategy supports a national target to reduce suicides among the whole population by 10% by 2021, and comes in response to figures compiled between 2012 and 2014 by Public Health in Norfolk and Suffolk, which show:

        • Every year there is a total average of 77 suicides in the county of Norfolk (10.3 per 100,000 people*) and 62 in the county of Suffolk
          (8.7 per 100,000 people*). The rate for England as a whole is 8.9 per 100,000
        • A third of all people who die by suicide are aged between 45 and 59
        • 90% of people who died by suicide had seen their GP in the 12 months before their death. Nearly a quarter (23%) had seen their GP in the
          week preceding their death

(*These are the total suicide rates for each county, not for those specifically under NSFT care)

Dr Jane Sayer, Director of Nursing, Quality and Safety with NSFT, said: “Suicide has a devastating impact on families and communities, but it remains something we have a limited understanding of and struggle to talk about openly. That is why this strategy is so important – it commits our Trust to do all that we can to avoid the loss of life to suicide and forms an essential part of our ambition to constantly improve the quality of everything we do.

“The strategy strengthens pledges which are already in place at the Trust – to consistently deliver good standards of fundamental care – and also shows how we will constantly evaluate our actions and they impact which they have.

“It also describes a range of further steps we will take to reach our ambition of reducing the number of people in our care who take their own lives. This includes developing the skills and knowledge of our staff, strengthening our care pathways and working even more closely with families, carers and our partners across the public sector.

“Importantly, our strategy addresses the fact that suicide is not just about mental health services, it is something which affects communities and every individual or organisation within those communities. If we don’t all work together to prevent and make ourselves aware of the risk of suicide and mental health issues, then we will miss the opportunity to prevent deaths that might be avoidable.

“The strategy and the progress we make towards its delivery will be regularly reviewed and monitored so that we can ensure the actions we take are making a real difference to the safety of our service users when they are at their most vulnerable.”

If approved, the strategy will be reviewed each year while the Board will also receive quarterly reports so that progress can be monitored closely.

To read the full strategy, visit