Researchers from the universities of Surrey, Keele and Birmingham have today (Tuesday) published the first guidance to support NHS workers after a colleague dies by suicide.
The recommendations are based on a two-year study identifying the impact on NHS staff who have been in this distressing situation, and the support they may need.
The guidance has been developed specifically for the NHS and for health service staff who are affected by a colleague’s suicide, and for those who will be supporting them.
The guidance is underpinned by research and data analysis that includes a comprehensive review of current evidence and in-depth interviews with staff groups across the NHS.
The findings showed that existing guidance is not specific enough for the NHS, and that support has often fallen short of staff needs.
As well as academics, the research team included health workers who have been personally affected by the death of a colleague by suicide.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The impact of a death by suicide is devastating for all those affected. Whether at work, or in wider society, every effort should be made to prevent these tragedies.
“This guidance is a call to action for all of us. Everyone must work together to break down stigma around suicide, and ensure staff receive compassionate support and enough time to grieve.”
Principal investigator Dr Ruth Riley said: “Official figures show that the suicide rate among health professionals is much higher than the national average. But until now there has been no evidence-based guidance to support colleagues who are directly affected by these deaths.
“The hope is that by publishing this guidance every NHS trust across the UK will have a dedicated, trained and skilled team in place to support colleagues.
“Compassionate, targeted and timely support after a suicide not only helps NHS employees, it also protects the patients, people and communities that they serve.”
GP principal professor of general practice research at Keele University Carolyn Chew-Graham said: “When a colleague dies by suicide, it can have an impact on all members of a clinical team.
“This guidance should lead to the establishment of a team of staff who can respond rapidly, safely and robustly to the needs of those bereaved by a colleague’s suicide.”
Notes to editors:
– For more information on the guidance please visit the study website.
– UNISON was involved in helping draw up the guidance.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.