Sussex suicide rates higher than national average

More work will be done to tackle suicide rates – according to the top boss of a mental health trust.

Colm Donaghy, Chief Executive Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust SUS-150526-173300001
Colm Donaghy, Chief Executive Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust SUS-150526-173300001

Colm Donaghy, chief executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said the suicide rate in Sussex is higher than the national average.

The trust is developing a suicide prevention strategy to improve the rates of suicide after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found it had no plan in place to tackle the high incidence rate in the area.

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Speaking at a meeting of East Sussex County Council’s Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee on October 1, Colm Donagy said: “In relation to the overall rate of suicide, Sussex is an outlier nationally. We are currently running at higher than the national rate.

Mr Donaghy said the national suicide rate was at 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people, but in Sussex the rate was ‘running at over 11’.

A report published by the CQC in May found the trust ‘required improvement’.

The report said: “East and West Sussex both have high rates of self harm and suicide. The trust had no plan in place to tackle the high rate of suicide.

“There was an elevated risk of suicide within 3 days of discharge and within 3 days of being admitted to an acute setting.

“In total there were 80 deaths in the period from November 1 to October 31 2014. Whilst we recognise that it is not just the trust’s responsibility to develop a suicide prevention plan, we would urge the trust to initiate urgent work with public health and community agencies to address this.”

Mr Donaghy said the trust needed to tackle to areas in a bid to prevent suicide – targeting the people who are known to the trust and attempting to reach the people who aren’t.

He said: “70 per cent of people who take their own lives are not known to the system. It is a much wider societal issue that needs to happen.”

The trust’s quality improvement plan sets out a plan to it needs to work with partners in Sussex to tackle the issue. The trust has already developed an app called Stay Alive, with Brighton-based charity Grassroots Suicide Prevention.

Stay Alive has been praised by one 22-year-old user who wished to remain anonymous, who said it helped him in times of crisis.

He said: “I was able to immediately dial through to a helpline using the crisis resources within the app and they were able to support me and keep me safe in the short term, until further help could be reached.”

Mr Donaghy said Sussex Partnership will be updating its improvement plan, following the trust’s ‘disappointing’ rating – and is aiming to meet its 31 targets set by the CQC by November.

He added: “I believe being chief executive is a privilege. So many peoples’ lives can be improved by the work we do.”

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