8.The clear message given to us by stakeholder groups is a simple one—implementation of the Government’s 2012 suicide prevention strategy has been characterized by inadequate leadership, poor accountability, and insufficient action. Over the past four years, there has been a failure to translate the suicide prevention strategy into actual improvements. Implementation, which is largely the responsibility of local authorities and local health services, has been highly variable and subject to insufficient oversight. Hamish Elvidge, a father who lost his son to suicide and Chair of the Matthew Elvidge Trust and the Support After Suicide Partnership, told us very compellingly:
To me, it is extraordinary and very distressing that four years after the strategy was published we do not know how many local authorities have implemented anything [ … ] we cannot allow more lives to be lost because we do not have effective governance and implementation. It is such a waste of time and a waste of money.
9.Public Health England has just published guidance for local authorities on suicide prevention—a hugely useful resource—but it has taken four years for this to happen, suggesting that suicide prevention has not been given sufficient priority. Witnesses from local authorities welcomed the guidance but told us that it will not achieve anything unless its implementation is robustly monitored and enforced.
10.To date, there has been no published monitoring by the Government or its agencies of the implementation of the strategy. We are reliant on research published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self Harm Prevention in 2015 which showed that 30% of local authorities did not have any form of suicide prevention strategy in place. This rose to 64% in London. We understand that Public Health England has now updated this assessment, and believe that more local authorities now have suicide prevention plans. But in the view of our witnesses, it is not enough for PHE simply to count the number of local authorities which report that they have a plan in place. The quality of the plans, whether they follow the PHE best practice guidance, and whether they are actually being implemented are all far more useful measures.
11.The refreshed suicide prevention strategy must be underpinned by a clear implementation strategy, with strong national leadership, clear accountability, and regular and transparent external scrutiny. In the words of a bereaved parent, “we cannot allow more lives to be lost because we do not have effective governance and implementation”.
12.We recommend that the Government’s updated strategy should include a clear implementation programme, with strong external scrutiny of local authority plans and progress. Local areas also need a clear message from the top that suicide prevention plans are mandatory.
13 Q7 [Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive, Samaritans]; Q67 [Dr Peter Aitken, Chair of Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists]; Q270 [Professor Louis Appleby, Chair, National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group].
14 Q237 [Hamish Elvidge, Chair, Matthew Elvidge Trust, and Chair, Support After Suicide Partnership]
15 Public Health England, , October 2016
16 Q18 [Dr Ann John, UK Faculty of Public Health]
17 All-Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self Harm Prevention,
18 Q312 [Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England]
19 Q270 [Professor Louis Appleby]; Samaritans
20 Q237 [Hamish Elvidge]
15 December 2016