Suicide prevention: interim report Contents

Consensus statement on sharing information with families

24.We heard very powerful evidence from those bereaved by suicide that professionals should be sharing information with the families of those who are suicidal. Patients have a legal right to confidentiality, but encouraging the option to involve trusted family or friends can improve support and aid recovery. However, we heard that too often, misunderstanding about confidentiality, lack of confidence, or even simply time constraints can lead professionals to adopt a ‘tick box’ approach to seeking consent. Professionals may err on the side of not involving families, rather than taking the time to explore fully with the patient whether there would be benefit in contacting a trusted family member or friend.34 Hamish Elvidge explained it very helpfully:

One way is to say “Do we have your consent to share information with a family member, friend or colleague?” The chances are that the answer will be, “No.” Or you could say, “In our experience, it is always much better to involve a family member, friend or colleague whom you trust in your treatment and recovery, and we know the triangle of care is likely to result in a greater chance of successful recovery. This will result in you recovering much quicker. Would you like us to make contact with someone and would you like us to do this with you now?”35

25.Such was the strength of feeling on this issue, Hamish Elvidge, together with other bereaved families now working in this field, worked in conjunction with the Royal Colleges to develop a consensus statement on information sharing.36 However, little has been done to promote awareness of and implement the Consensus Statement, or to support the culture change that is needed in this area.37 As PAPYRUS, a national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide, argued in their written evidence, “the Consensus Statement of the Royal Colleges and the Department of Health must be properly promoted, disseminated and used at local practice level among all health professionals.”38

26.Although a patient’s right to confidentiality is paramount, there are instances where professionals sharing information—with consent—with a person’s trusted family or friends could save their life. Stronger action needs to be taken to raise awareness of the Consensus Statement, to train staff in this area (including training on how to seek consent), and to engender a culture shift away from the current presumption that suicidal patients will not want their family or friends to be involved in their recovery.

34 Q197 [Shirley Smith, If U Care Share Foundation]; Q208 [Clare Milford Haven, Founder, James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund]; Q211 [Steve Mallen, Chairman, MindEd Trust]

35 Q206 [Hamish Elvidge]

37 Q206 [Hamish Elvidge]

38 PAPYRUS (SPR0027) para 7

15 December 2016