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SANE responds to 'zero suicide' plans
Added: 31st Jan 2018

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has described the suicide rate as a "litmus test" for healthcare quality as he outlined a scheme to reduce deaths in psychiatric wards to zero.

A new policy, which will see £25 million made available to mental health trusts from April 2018, will require every facility in England to draw up plans for preventing suicide, including improving patient observation and collecting data better.

Responding to the plans, Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE, says: “Three-quarters of people who kill themselves while on a psychiatric ward do so by hanging or strangulation. Yet many wards still have ligature points that should have been removed years ago. Only this week, one trust was found to still have ligature points in some of its units by the Care Quality Commission, despite being told to remove them three years ago.

“But it is not just removing means that will help prevent unnecessary deaths, the real problem is the lack of nurses and other hospital staff who have the skills and time to get to know patients who are at risk. All too often inpatient wards rely heavily on bank and agency staff, who may change regularly and with whom patients may struggle to develop relationships of trust.

“While we have around 6,000 nursing vacancies and morale amongst staff remains low due to the lack of resources and support from management, we will continue to see patients take their own lives in the very places where they are supposed to be safe.”

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