Researchers publish first ever guidance to support NHS workers following a colleague death by suicide
- A team of researchers from the Universities of Keele, Surrey and Birmingham have published the first set of guidance specifically for NHS workers following a colleague death by suicide in the UK.
- National figures show the suicide rate amongst health professionals is 24 per cent higher than the national average, but there has been no evidence-based guidance to support colleagues who are directly affected by these deaths until now.
- This guidance has been developed specifically for the NHS and for individuals within the NHS who are affected by a colleague’s suicide, and those who will be delivering postvention support.
Supporting NHS workers
Researchers from the Universities of Keele, Surrey and Birmingham have published the first set of evidence-based postvention guidance specifically for NHS workers following a colleague death by suicide in the UK.
The research team also included clinicians who have been personally affected by the death of a colleague by suicide.
The postvention guidance is the result of a two-year study identifying the impact on and the support needs of NHS staff following a colleague’s suicide.
Postvention refers to the support and care offered to people who have been impacted by a suicide death; this guidance has been developed specifically for the NHS and for individuals within the NHS who are affected by a colleague’s suicide, and those who will be delivering postvention support. The guidance also includes a range of resources, signposts and tools to aid the delivery of supportive and holistic postvention.
Huge impact on team members
Professor Carolyn Chew-Graham, a GP Principal and Professor of General Practice Research at Keele University, who has conducted previous work on suicide and self-harm in health service clinicians, said: "When a colleague dies by suicide, it can impact on all members of a clinical team. We have developed evidence-based guidance which we hope will be adopted by all NHS Trusts Integrated Care Boards.
“We hope that this will lead to the establishment of a team with dedicated, trained and supported staff who can respond rapidly, safely and robustly to the needs of staff bereaved by a colleague's suicide."
“Protecting staff, patients, people, and communities”
Dr Ruth Riley from the University of Surrey, the Principal Investigator and one of the lead authors of the guidance, added: “According to the Office for National Statistics, the suicide rate amongst health professionals is 24 per cent higher than the national average, and yet up until now there has been no evidence-based guidance to support colleagues who are directly affected by these deaths.
“Through publishing this guidance we are hoping that every NHS Trust across the four nations of the United Kingdom has a dedicated, trained and skilled postvention team who can respond rapidly, safely and compassionately to the needs of NHS staff and their managers in the event of a colleague death by suicide. Compassionate, targeted and timely support will serve as a protective factor for staff members who are affected. Robust postvention not only supports and protects staff, it also protects the patients, people and communities that they serve.”
The guidance is underpinned by a programme of research and data analysis that included a systematic review of the literature, in depth interviews with affected staff groups across the NHS, and a stakeholder workshop. The findings from the research programme demonstrated that existing guidance does not address key organisational and professional contexts that are unique to NHS culture and support has often fallen short of staff needs.
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