Suicide prevention programmes run by local authorities are not being held to good quality standards and are being inadequately implemented, leading MPs have said.
In the final report following the Health Select Committee’s inquiry into suicide prevention, MPs said it is ‘welcome’ that most local authorities have prevention programmes but ‘it is not enough simply to count the number of plans in existence’.
The MPs added that poor implementation is the ‘key problem’ facing suicide prevention and more needs to be done to assess the quality of the local authority programmes.
In 2015, 4,820 people in England died by suicide and 'it remains the biggest killer of men aged 49 and under and the leading cause of death in people aged 15–24,' the report adds.
The report said: ‘Whilst we welcome the fact that 95% of local authorities now have a suicide prevention plan in place or in development, we are concerned that there is currently little or no information about the quality of those plans.’
It added that ‘a clear, effective quality assurance process and implementation at local and national level’ is needed to move prevention plans forward.
The Health Select Committee recommended that Public Health England develop its suicide prevention planning guidance for local authorities into quality standards against which their plans should be assessed.
Cllr Lizzie Secombe, chairman of the Local Government Association, said a 'root and branch overhaul' of the services are needed.
She said: 'While the overwhelming majority of councils now have a suicide prevention plan in place, even though there is no requirement for them to do so, we can only really tackle the issue alongside other public and private organisations, such as schools, railway operators, supermarkets, hospitals and police stations.'
The report also noted the need for a Government spending plan for the funding it promised to suicide prevention.
The committee said it was concerned that the funding is coming ‘too little and too late to implement the strategy as effectively as required’.
They said: ‘The Government must set out how it will make sure that funding is available for the actions outlined in their strategy.
Saffron Cordery, director of strategy and policy at NHS Providers, said: 'It is the responsibility of both government and commissioners to ensure this money reaches the right initiatives aimed at preventing suicide within the most vulnerable groups.'
She added: 'Without appropriate funding, mental health service providers will struggle to recruit the staff needed to deliver the measures outlined including provision for those who attend A&E for self-harm injuries, home treatment and follow up within three days of discharge.'
Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said ‘there are many further steps’ the Government could take if it ‘wishes to be truly ambitious in reducing the toll of suicide’.
She added: ‘The Government must prioritise effective implementation of its strategy because without it, any strategy is of very limited value.’