Government funding shortfalls for suicide prevention services could mean people are dying unnecessarily, an influential cross-party committee of MPs has warned.
MPs on the House of Commons Health Select Committee said funding for suicide prevention was currently “too little, too late” and called for an overhaul of the Government’s suicide prevention strategy.
“We note that there are currently important steps which could be taken to reduce suicide but which cannot be acted upon due to the lack of significant additional resource,” the MPs warned in a report released on Thursday.
The committee urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to give more details of the Government’s suicide prevention strategy, and said that more attention should be paid to whether local councils were properly engaging with the issue.
They called for more clarity on where money would come from to fund the pledges in the strategy and said doctors should be better trained to recognise the symptoms of a person who might be feeling suicidal. The committee also called on the Government to close a shortfall in the number of trained mental health professionals.
The committee report continued: “We welcome the provision of funding for suicide prevention but we are concerned that it will be too little and too late to implement the strategy as effectively as required.
“We call on the Government to set out how it will make sure that funding is available for the actions outlined in the strategy.”
The Department of Health said it would carefully consider the Committee’s recommendations and offer a full response “in due course”. A spokesperson for the department said it had pledged an additional £25m for suicide prevention to over three years – which translates to just £8.3m a year.
4,820 people are recorded as having died as a result of suicide in England in 2015, though MPs said the figure is likely to be “much higher”.
The committee’s chair, Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, said: “The clear message we have heard throughout our inquiry is that suicide is preventable. The current rate of suicide is unacceptable and is likely to under-represent the true scale of the loss of life.”
Ian Hulatt, professional lead for mental health at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The report exposes the gap between Government rhetoric and action.
“The funding is not getting through and little is known about the quality of local plans or their ability to reach the people who need support.”
Dr Peter Aitken, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, confirmed there was a shortage of liaison psychiatrists – who work in A&Es to help treat the mental health of potential suicide victims.
Mental Health Awareness: Facts and figures
Mental Health Awareness: Facts and figures
1/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
30 per cent of people deal with anxiety by talking to a friend or relative, or by going for a walk.
2/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
Almost one in five people feel anxious all or a lot of the time.
3/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
22 per cent of women feel anxious a lot or all of the time, compared to 15 per cent of men.
Roman Levin/Flickr Creative Commons
4/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
45 per cent of people who feel anxious in everyday life cite financial issues as their biggest cause of worry.
5/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
And 26 per cent of people who feel anxious say fearing for the welfare of their children and loved ones leaves them burdened with worry.
And 26 per cent of people say fearing for the welfare of their children and loved ones leaves them burdened with anxiety.
6/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
27 per cent of people who suffer from anxiety say work issues, such as long hours, are the source of the problem.
7/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
But 16 per cent use alcohol to cope, while 10 per cent turn to cigarettes in the face of anxiety. Unemployed people are more likely to resort to these harmful strategies: 27 per cent use alcohol and 23 per cent use cigarettes.
8/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
Only seven per cent of people who say they suffer from anxiety seek help from their GP.
9/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
People are thought to be more anxious than they were five years ago.
Alessandra/Flickr Creative Commons
10/10 Mental Health Foundation: Living With Anxiety report
The stresses of modern life are thought to have created "The Age of Anxiety".
The Health Secretary Mr Hunt said the Government was taking action and that services were improving.
“We agree with the Committee that every death by suicide is a tragedy which has a devastating effect on families and communities.
“We are taking action to ensure we quality assure every local plan so they reach the most vulnerable people – and local authorities now are supported by record mental health funding, with big developments in the availability and quality of crisis care services as a result.”Reuse content