Improve GP training to cut down on patient suicides, say MPs

Around one in three people who end their lives by suicide are in contact with their GP preceding their death, but are not receiving specialist mental health services, according to a report on suicide prevention by MPs.

Dr Sarah Wollaston
Dr Sarah Wollaston

GPs should be given ‘better training in suicide risk’ to help prevent more patients from ending their lives by suicide, the House of Commons health select committee has said.

The group, chaired by Conservative MP for Totnes Dr Sarah Wollaston - a former GP - warned that the scale of avoidable loss of life by suicide was ‘unacceptable’.

NICE guidelines on depression should be promoted and implemented more widely more across primary care, it added – after warning that a lack of strong leadership driving this forward meant it was ‘too easy’ for this to be ignored amidst ‘a huge range of other competing priorities’.

Patients who are at risk of suicide and in contact with their GP form one of three groups identified in its interim report on suicide prevention.

GP training

It also recommends that all patients discharged from inpatient care should receive follow-up support within three days of discharge – up from the current seven – and that greater emphasis should be placed on public mental health and wellbeing to help people not in contact with any service.

Dr Wollaston said: ‘4,820 people are recorded as having died by suicide in England last year, but the true figure is likely to be higher.

‘Suicide is preventable and much more can and should be done to support those at risk. I hope to see the most important messages from witnesses to our inquiry taken into account by the government in their renewed suicide prevention strategy.

‘The committee will scrutinise the updated strategy and then hold a follow-up hearing before publishing a full report.’

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