National charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide says too many young lives are still being lost to suicide because NHS practitioners are failing to share information with families. The charity’s chief executive, Ged Flynn, has written to every NHS Trust chief executive in the country urging them to encourage their staff to share patient information with family and other organisations, particularly a young person’s school when they are vulnerable to self-harm or suicide.

The recent Government Green Paper ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ published last December states: ‘We recognise that parents and carers need support in caring for a young person with a mental illness or who is going through emotional difficulties. The evidence highlights the important role of the family in ensuring successful interventions, with parental involvement improving the outcomes of many interventions.’

General Medical Council guidance encourages information sharing to protect children yet PAPYRUS hears of countless cases where information about a patient’s history of suicidal behaviours was kept from loved ones where sharing this could have prevented a tragedy. In some cases explicit permission had been given by the young patient but the information was not passed on.

In the UK suicide is the leading cause of death in young people. In the last few years these deaths have numbered over 1,600 annually by 10-34 year olds. A significant number were known to primary care and visited a GP in the months before their death.

The charity is asking every NHS Trust chief executive to back their employees if they make a best interest decision and share information about one of their patients in order to keep them safe from suicide.

“Information sharing saves lives. Too often it is only after the death of a young person by suicide that parents and families hear about their child’s previous self-injuring or suicide behaviours. We work with these families. We know their heartbreak.

“It is nearly three years since the Health and Social (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 set a duty for information to be shared where it facilitates care for an individual and it is legal to do so. Moreover, when working with children, the General Medical Council guidance states that if you judge disclosure is justified, you should disclose the information promptly to an appropriate person or authority and record your discussions and reasons. If judged not justified your reasons for not disclosing should be recorded.

“PAPYRUS believes that every NHS Trust chief executive can change the culture of a frightened workforce, often scared by a misguided understanding of protecting data. Rather, sharing information can protect life. NHS bosses can help us to save young lives by empowering staff to make professional judgements, without prejudice or fear of litigation, and based on the best interest of the patient,” stressed Ged Flynn.

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