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PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide has been campaigning for greater information sharing in the context of suicide prevention. In January 2018 we wrote to NHS Trusts across England and asked them to support our initiative.
Often it is only after the death of a young person by suicide that parents and loved ones hear about their loved one’s previous self-injuring or suicide behaviours. In some cases, again we discover after a death by suicide, a young patient had given explicit permission for a professional to share information with a parent or a family member and this has not been acted upon.
Information sharing is an important issue for medical and healthcare professionals to get right. The Health and Social (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 sets a duty for information to be shared where it facilitates care for an individual and it is legal to do so. Moreover, in terms of working with children, the General Medical Council guidance is very clear:
“If you judge that disclosure is justified, you should disclose the information promptly to an appropriate person or authority and record your discussions and reasons. If you judge that disclosure is not justified, you should record your reasons for not disclosing.”
As a national charity, whose members are parents, siblings and friends who have lost children and young people far many to number to suicide over the last twenty years, PAPYRUS are urging NHS Trusts to support their staff with Information Sharing. We believe that a letter from an NHS Chief Executive to their staff will enable many to make better judgements, without prejudice or fear of litigation, and based on the best interest of the patient.
In March last year, Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the House of Commons Health Committee launched the report of the Committee’s Suicide Prevention Inquiry and recommendations to Government. She said,
‘In too many cases, those who have died by suicide were known to be at higher risk but that risk has been poorly communicated or not discussed at all with those who could have protected them. The Committee calls on the Government and the Medical Royal Colleges to take further action to promote the Consensus Statement on information sharing.’
This Consensus Statement referred to here is over three years old, yet few seem to know of it. You can find the document here.
PAPYRUS Trustee Don Hart lost his youngest son to suicide in 2011 and has written an article about information sharing and his experience of 'parenting in the dark'.