I recognise the strength of those who have raised the cases of their loved ones who have been lost to suicide, and I thank them for their determination to prevent the pain and suffering that they are experiencing being visited on others. I commend them for coming to the gallery to be with us today and I look forward to meeting them soon. Their efforts have led to the new leadership team of NHS Tayside setting out that it will commission an independent inquiry.
I commend Anas Sarwar for his moving remarks. As he said, on Friday
Carseview centre. They have since broadened the inquiry to cover mental health services across Tayside.
Miles Briggs’s amendment sets out that the inquiry should cover the whole region and that the families who have been affected must be involved in the establishment and remit of the inquiry. I agree, so we will support his amendment as we will Anas Sarwar’s.
As we know, mental health services do not operate in a vacuum. Their quantity and benefit depend on meaningful and coherent links between community, specialist and crisis services. I support the commitment that has been made by NHS Tayside to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the recent reports by the Mental Welfare Commission and Healthcare Improvement Scotland are fully considered through the inquiry.
I am also pleased to see the commitment to work with staff and to hear from patients and families. It is vital that their voices are clearly heard and responded to. I am confident that the newly appointed chair and chief executive of NHS Tayside will create the environment for an effective and independent inquiry. That will allow the inquiry to be established and undertake its work quickly, ensuring that any necessary changes are expedited. However, should it be apparent that the inquiry is not independent or that barriers to its work exist, the health secretary will use the statutory powers available to her to make that happen. As the cabinet secretary said, the answer all of Anas Sarwar’s asks is yes.
Within the recent debate around mental health services, there has been a specific focus on the tragedy of those who have died or attempted to die through suicide. We are currently working with people and organisations from across Scotland to conclude a new suicide prevention plan, which will be published in the summer. Progress has been made in the past decade, with a 17 per cent reduction in the number of deaths from suicide, but I want us to go further. My view is clear: suicide is preventable.
We need our services to work more closely with each other so that the support that is given to those in crisis is coherent and effective. That is important not only for those who are in contact with health services but for developing new approaches to reaching those who are considering suicide but are not in contact with any service. Around a quarter of suicides are carried out by those who have not been in contact with health services.
As part of the suicide prevention plan work, I want to see a national suicide prevention leadership group established to drive the required changes. The plan will support the development of appropriate reviews into every death from suicide. I want a process that, where necessary, involves multidisciplinary reviews and that ensures that learning and knowledge from every suicide is shared and considered and that improvements are made.
The Parliament has already legislated for a review of the arrangements for reviewing the deaths of people who were receiving mental health treatment under section 37 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2015. That review will report in December this year. I want the development of a process to review all deaths by suicide to take account of the recommendations of the section 37 review, which will help to drive local and national learning.
I also want a more consistent and coherent approach to supporting those who have lost a loved one through suicide and those who are themselves at risk of suicide. Bereaved relatives and friends have told me of the improved support that they require while they are involved in the review.
I note that the Samaritans welcome the proposals in our amendment. We will continue to work with the organisation on this and on other issues that it highlights, not least isolation and loneliness.
We all know that there is rarely any single identifiable causal factor for individual deaths by suicide. However, through sharing knowledge and learning and by ensuring that services and support are effective and joined up, and that all those who are at risk of taking their life through suicide get the help that they require, we will deliver the changes that are required. The independent inquiry in Tayside will be an important part of that learning and of the improvement of services.
I move amendment S5M-12107.3 in Shona Robison’s name, to leave out from “understands” to end and insert:
“welcomes the decision of the new chair of NHS Tayside to commission an independent inquiry into mental health and suicide prevention services across the region; believes that this inquiry must be an opportunity to capture the concerns of the patients and families who have felt let down by services; considers that the inquiry should also help ensure that recommendations from recent Health Improvement Scotland and Mental Welfare Commission inspection reports are fully implemented; believes that, if the NHS Tayside-commissioned inquiry is hindered in its undertaking by either non-cooperation by providers or by lacking appropriate independence, the Scottish Government should subsequently convert it to an inquiry under the auspices of the Inquiries Act 2005; supports calls for the forthcoming Suicide Prevention Strategy to help deliver more constant crisis support for people who have lost a loved one to suicide; approves of the creation of a national suicide prevention leadership group to help support the creation and delivery of local prevention action plans, and endorses the inclusion of the development of reviews, where necessary multi-agency, into all deaths from suicide as part of the new Suicide Prevention Strategy.”