Advising with empathy and experience

Scottish hospital suicides.

Fifty people have taken their own lives in Scottish hospitals over the past four years, according to a BBC investigation.

The deaths occurred in spite of repeated warnings over health and safety measures, including ones at Glasgow's new £842m flagship hospital.

The hospital refused to implement its board's recommendations on risks to patients who wanted to take their own life, papers seen by the BBC show.

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokeswoman said: "If a patient has been assessed as being 'at risk' of harming themselves but needs acute clinical care, appropriate support will be put in place for that patient."

In spite of pledges from the Scottish government to reduce the number of suicides, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that 50 patients took their own lives in hospital during the past four years.

Papers seen by the BBC show that the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, was built with ligature points in spite of warnings from the board.

Last year a patient at the hospital committed suicide but board minutes seen by the BBC say: "No further action was planned with regard to ligature points although risk assessments would be undertaken to allocate 'at risk' patients to appropriate wards."

Because it is a new hospital, board members said they: "found it regrettable that the specification for the area in question had not followed that of a psychiatric hospital. The design brief had not asked for a full anti-ligature specification throughout the building."

Other deaths have occurred at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth. Jodie McNab, 22, took her own life at the hospital. Her mother, Tracy Swan, said: "Jodie was supposed to be in a place of safety. Her room was supposed to be kitted out for people who were suicidal. She was admitted to Murray Royal under section and under constant observation. Her death was entirely preventable."

Tayside health board assured the family that lessons would be learned but last autumn two women died by suicide in the same hospital just days apart.

A former NHS inspector and prosecutor, Roger Livermore, said: "These deaths really shouldn't be happening and should be extremely rare if they happen at all.

"The underlying problem is that Scottish ministers have refused to implement the law on patient safety. The philosophy has got to be no suicides whereas the current philosophy is to reduce suicides, but that is not what the law requires."

Scotland’s Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt, said: "Any suicide is a tragedy which has a terrible effect on a person's family, friends and community. The Scottish suicide rate fell by 17.8% between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014.

"There is a considerable amount of work under way to ensure this downward trend continues. NHS boards do everything they can to prevent suicides from happening in hospitals."

 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.