This site is intended for health professionals only

GP safe prescribing guidance to be updated as part of suicide prevention strategy

GP safe prescribing guidance to be updated as part of suicide prevention strategy
By Anna Colivicchi
11 September 2023

The Government has launched a strategy to prevent suicide, which will include new guidance for GPs around safe prescribing and perinatal mental health.

It has pledged to reduce England’s suicide rate within two and a half years, as part of the strategy announced today, with action to ‘aid specific groups at risk of suicide’, including children and young people, middle-aged men, autistic people, pregnant women and new mothers.

The Department of Health and Social Care will work with NHS England and professional bodies to improve suicide prevention signposting and support to people in contact with primary care services, including those receiving care for physical ill-health and groups such as middle-aged men, who are considered at higher risk of suicide.

The RCGP is in the process of revising their curriculum and will assess where guidance on safe prescribing ‘may be strengthened’ to reduce risks associated with the prescribing of certain medicines, the Government said.

NHSE is also working with the RCGP to develop new guidance for GPs who deliver 6-to-8-week postnatal consultations.

This includes a chapter specifically on support for perinatal mental health and guidance on the most appropriate crisis or emergency support.

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘Too many people are still affected by the tragedy of suicide, which is so often preventable.

‘This national cross-government strategy details over one hundred actions we’ll take to ensure anyone experiencing the turmoil of a crisis has access to the urgent support they need.

‘It’s imperative we support people earlier to prevent them reaching the lowest point, while tackling emerging methods of suicide, and eradicating harmful material online.

‘We’re working at pace to achieve this, and we continue to invest billions of pounds to transform and improve our nation’s mental health services and – most importantly – save lives.’

Minister for mental health Maria Caulfield, said: ‘The impact of suicide on individuals and loved ones is devastating.

‘This strategy will bolster the work this government is already undertaking to reduce the number of suicides, and help us intervene where needed as early as possible.

‘An extra £2.3bn is going into our mental health services each year, which will help an additional two million people access vital NHS-funded mental health support by 2024.’

More than 100 measures are being taken, including a national alert system to ‘combat emerging methods of suicide’ and refreshed guidance for first responders, the strategy said.

The new national alert system will notify relevant authorities – including schools, universities, and charities – of emerging methods of suicides and actions that can reduce access or limit awareness.

This will mean anyone who comes into contact with potentially dangerous new methods of suicide will have a direct link into central Government to report it.

NHS England has also designed a toolkit to help prevent suicide in the healthcare workforce.

It pointed out that all NHS workers have access to the same mental health and suicide prevention services as patients across the country, and that colleagues concerned about their mental health should seek an appointment with the GP they are registered with.

NHS staff can be referred by their GP to the local NHS Talking Therapies service, or they can refer themselves directly without a referral from a GP.

The document also recommended developing a ‘local healthcare workplace suicide prevention strategy’ to:

  • Acknowledge that healthcare staff are at risk from death by suicide, and pledge to talk about suicide and suicide prevention to reduce stigma
  • Ensure all NHS staff are aware of the support options available to them, including local support and national support
  •  Offer staff training in suicide awareness
  • Offer staff ‘timely’ access to restorative clinical supervision, trauma support and de-briefing after an incident or death of a colleague
  • Support staff and those with line management responsibilities ensuring they have access to training to enable them to confidently talk about and raise awareness about mental health, wellbeing, and suicide prevention
  • Consider cultural sensitivity in association with mental health, suicide, and suicide prevention

Around one in 20 GPs in England are currently accessing mental health services via NHS Practitioner Health, a service which provides treatment to healthcare professionals who are mentally unwell.

And earlier this year, a medical defence organisation found that just over 40% of GPs being investigated by the GMC reported suicidal thoughts.

This article first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related articles