Hot on the heels of the interim report on suicide prevention by the Commons Health Select Committee, the Department of Health published its own report about progress nationally. Here’s a partial comparison of the two reports.
Last time I wrote about this subject, I picked out some of the main points from the Select Committee’s interim report, and this time I’ll cover the same points using the same headings. In this post I’ll call this report the interim report. I’m using it as the baseline for comparison, just as before.
I’ll call the Department of Health’s report, Preventing suicide in England: Third progress report, the DH report. This is the report I’m evaluating.
The scale of the problem
The interim report begins by telling us how many deaths from suicide there are each year, to establish the scale of the problem. The DH report provides the same statistic, but it expresses it like this:
“On average, 13 people kill themselves every day in England.”
The interim report goes on to describe three of the factors that are linked to suicide: following pregnancy, being in prison or recent discharge from prison, and poor economic circumstances. The DH report has corresponding sections on perinatal mental health,
people in contact with the criminal justice system, and people in receipt of benefits, amongst many other factors that it covers.
However, the focus of the section on people in receipt of benefits is unemployment. This is narrower than the interim report’s focus on poor economic circumstances in general, which the DH report doesn’t seem to acknowledge.
The interim report has a section on implementation of the national strategy, criticising:
“inadequate leadership, poor accountability, and insufficient action”
The DH report sidesteps this criticism, saying only:
“…we recognise that continued strong local leadership and commitment to take action is needed…”
In this way it implies that leadership is not inadequate but has instead been strong, and it implies that only commitment to take action is needed, not actual action. It doesn’t mention accountability at all, except in that quote from the interim report.
My previous post on the subject supports the interim report’s view, as it applies in Gloucestershire, anyway, so I think the DH report is unrealistic about leadership, accountability and action.
The interim report also calls for strong external scrutiny, but although the DH report also quotes this, it takes no further notice of it.
In discussing people who are vulnerable to suicide, the interim report notes that around a third are not in contact with health services at all, a third are in contact with their GP, and the remaining third are under the care of specialist mental health services.
The DH report misleadingly says a third have been under specialist mental health services and two thirds have seen their GP, so that the unwary reader would imagine everyone has been accounted for. But these groups overlap, leaving out the third who are not in contact with health services at all, whom the DH report ignores.
Sharing information with families
Both reports cover the sharing of information with families, which was the subject of a consensus statement in 2014, Information sharing and suicide prevention, but apparently still not widely known.
The interim report calls for better statistics and a different approach from coroners.
The DH report says statistics are improving and implies that coroners are cooperating. It doesn’t mention the interim report’s recommendations. Again, I found last time that there was no improvement in Gloucestershire, so I think the DH report is misleading about statistics.
The interim report recommends doing more to ensure that media guidelines on reporting suicides are followed, but the DH report suggests that everything is OK. As before, it didn’t seem to me last time that everything is OK in Gloucestershire, so I don’t believe the DH report on this.
This largely self-congratulatory DH report, the progress report from the Department of Health, doesn’t appear to take the concerns of the Health Select Committee’s interim report very seriously, and it doesn’t seem to reflect what I’m seeing locally. When the Select Committee publishes its final report, it seems likely it will be scathing.