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Yesterday was #NHSChangeDay, and I pledged to #StartTheConversation and raise awareness about health professionals who are in psychological distress. As it happens, @WeDocs conveniently hosted a #WeDocs Tweetchat on preventing suicide in health care professional populations. It was great to see an issue I feel so passionate about being discussed, shared and given some much needed attention. This kind of innovative Twitter usage is one of the things I love about our NHS radicals!
Throughout the conversation, there were seemingly many people concerned and wanting to prevent clinician suicide, but not many solutions to prevention were put forward. -> See the chat summary here
A recent situational analysis into Suicide by clinicians involved in serious incidents in the NHS has identified the current support services available clinical staff, yet there is no consensus on how to effectively support clinical staff, and nobody has yet taken responsibility for the well being of NHS staff (Strobl et al, 2014). This has been further complicated by the fact that Clinicians often have difficulty in recognising symptoms and risk factors associated with their own suicidal behaviour (Goldney et al, 2002). Clinicians are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population, can be misunderstood and left unsupported whilst under immense pressure (Chan et al, 2014). The GMC have recently published a report in regards to a high rate of professionals dying by suicide whilst under investigation. A tragedy for all.
Psychological safety for NHS staff is critical for patient safety and every shiny new white paper will tell you this. But it is also critical for the NHS’s ‘ethical well being’ to care for it’s staff. If the NHS as an organization lets its staff suffer, how will it ever live with itself? The trauma will inevitably become endemic.
So what changes can we make to prevent suicide?
1. We could treat NHS staff as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ & eradicate ‘Name Blame and Shame’ Cultures.
2. Consider that poor behaviour may actually be ‘ill’ behaviour in need of medical treatment before disciplinary action takes place (Brooks et al, 2014).
3. Consider alternatives to discipline & create psychologically safe work cultures.
4.Expose investigation staff to front line clinical practice to understand organizational cultures and pressures.
5. Develop a tailor made national support programme for NHS staff which is confidential, anonymous and provides professional amnesty (The aim of my entire PhD research project)
Also… please keep the conversation going 🙂
Brooks, S, Del Busso, L, Chalder, T, Harvey, S ,Hatch, S, Hotopf, M, Madan, Henderson, M (2014) ‘You feel you’ve been bad, not ill’: Sick doctors’ experiences of interactions with the General Medical Council BMJ Open 2014;Vol.4 (7) :e005537 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005537.
Chan, W., Batterham, P., Christensen, H., Galletly, C (2014) Suicide literacy, suicide stigma and help-seeking intentions in Australian medical students. Australas Psychiatry April 2014 vol. 22 no. 2 132-139
Goldney RD, Fisher LJ, Wilson DH (2002). Mental health literacy of those with major depression and suicidal ideation: an impediment to help seeking. Suicide Life Threat Behav 2002; 32: 394–403.