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16.07.14

Suicide risk for mental health patients highest just after discharge

Mental health patients are at their highest risk of dying by suicide within the first two weeks of being discharged from hospital.

This is according to a new study by the University of Manchester's National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, which found that between 2002-2012, approximately 3,225 patients died by suicide in the UK within the first three months of their discharge from hospital – 18% of all patient suicides.

The inquiry, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) on behalf of NHS England and the government, found that 526 patients died within the first week, the peak time of risk in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland; it is the first two weeks in Wales.   

Professor Louis Appleby, director of the National Confidential Inquiry, who led the study said: “Our latest data shows the first three months after discharge remain the time of highest risk but especially in the first 1-2 weeks.

“This increased risk has been linked to short admissions and to life events so our recommendations are that careful and effective care planning is needed including for patients before they are discharged and for those who self-discharge.”

The research team has called for suicides within three days of hospital discharge and deaths and serious injuries caused by restraint to be NHS ‘never events’.

One of the key findings by the inquiry was that suicide in the first two weeks post-discharge has been linked to admissions lasting less than seven days and to adverse life events. It has been recommended that the benefits of reducing length of in-patient stay should be balanced with risks and it should not be an aim in itself.

It has also been stated that careful and effective care planning is needed on discharge, including for patients who discharge themselves.

Janet Davies, director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These are very important findings that show how crucial it is to have community-based services ready to care for mental health patients after they leave hospital. Suicide prevention strategies must clearly put more focus on improving post-discharge support.

“To treat seriously ill people in the community you need services with the right number of health care professionals who have the right level of skills. It is vital that these services are properly funded so that they can provide the best possible care to their highly vulnerable patients.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Paula   29/07/2014 at 14:44

This echoes my sentiments entirely. I only hope now that the powers that be take notice of this and act upon it sooner rather than later.

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