Saving lives by “stepping back safely” | News and events

Saving lives by “stepping back safely”

An innovative project designed to reduce suicides by making sure high-risk service users and their carers are fully involved in effective safety planning is being rolled out across Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) following a successful pilot.

Called “Stepping Back Safely”, the project aims to keep people safe by managing the risk of suicide or serious self-harm. At the same time, it will give carers the tools they need to support the person they care for while also looking after themselves and building their own resilience.

The project will focus on three main elements: 

  • A workshop for carers called “Stepping Back Safely”, which will provide carers with coping skills and tools to help manage risk while also raising awareness of safety planning. The workshops will be held virtually from early 2021. 

  • Staff training which will focus on safety planning with carers and building confidence to discuss risk.  

  • A safety planning clinic to give high risk service users, their carers and NSFT clinicians the chance to work together to collaboratively create a safety plan. This has is currently being embedded in Central Norfolk Adult Community teams with further clinics to follow in both Norfolk and Suffolk. 

All three elements were piloted in Great Yarmouth and Waveney in late 2018 during a year-long quality improvement project. This was introduced in response to national data which shows that 18% of professionals who have lost a service user to suicide would, with hindsight, have involved the carer or family more closely.

Catherine Phillips, Carers Lead and Safety Planning Trainer, is spearheading the project alongside Clinical Psychologist Deirdre Williams.

She said: “We are delighted that we have been awarded the funding to roll out Stepping Back Safely over the coming two years. The pilot went very well and we are using the learning from that trial to further refine and develop the workshops and training sessions in partnership with our service users and their carers.

“Our ultimate aim is to save lives by making sure that service users, their families and carers are involved more closely in safety planning and managing risk. At the same time, we are acutely aware that caring for a high-risk service user can be exhausting, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, so want to make sure there is support in place to help carers to look after themselves too.

“Carers are there 24/7 and are the experts. They know the service user the best and can have a really valuable input in helping to develop an effective plan which works for everyone.

“Our ultimate aim is to make sure involving carers in safety planning becomes common practice across the entire Trust so that we can successfully manage risk while helping them to step back safely when necessary.”

Any carers who would like to help develop or co-deliver the workshops or staff training sessions should contact Catherine by emailing

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