Self-harm and suicide reports increase by 56%


New figures that have been released indicate that an increased number of people receiving treatment in NHS mental health units are self-harming or attempting suicide.

At 29 of the 52 UK NHS mental health trusts, the incident numbers increased from 14815 during 2010 to 23053 during 2013. There has been an annual increase of 30% during last year and a total increase of 56% for the four-year period. The average number of incidences per trust has risen from 511 to 795 for the same period last year.

The Labour Party’s shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger, who gained access to the figures under the freedom of information laws, has linked the increase to the decline in the number of nurses and doctors who work in mental health, as well as the budget cuts.

Ms Berger said that the squeeze on the budgets for mental health services, the decline in the employment of specialist nurses and doctors and the lack of beds to cope with the demands has put increasing pressure on mental health wards.

She added that these are some of the most vulnerable patients under the NHS and it was unacceptable that they were not obtaining the support they need. She said that the increase could also be due to the fact that some of the mental health wards were operating above the recommended maximum capacity of 85%, with some of them reaching a high of 138%.

Ms Berger added that the chronic bed shortage in some of the mental health units meant that some patients were forced to travel, at times, hundreds of miles away from home to receive treatment.

The highest increases were experienced at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. This trust experienced increases from 2008 to 3746. Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust also fell into the top affected trusts with an increase from 2071 to 3935. The other 21 of the 50 trusts that were approached by Labour failed to respond to the request.

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Emma Brown

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