Mental Health (Suicide)

Health written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what standards on (a) furniture and (b) accessories the Government sets for those caring for mental health patients in an effort to reduce the risk of suicide; and whose responsibility it is to ensure that these standards are met;

(2) what standards are applied to the building of mental health institutions in order to lower the risk of patient suicides.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton The Minister of State, Department of Health

NHS Estates publishes guidance for psychiatric accommodation in the form of hospital building notes (HBNs) and design guides (DCs). NHS Estates also provide technical guidance to supplement HBNs and DCs covering individual elements of buildings such as doors, windows etc.

Other guidance includes "Psychiatric intensive care units—policy guidance and standards" published by the Department of Health.

Guidance was also issued in September 2000 to eliminate the possibility of suicides from cubicle curtain tracks, window curtain tracks and shower rails by replacing the ligature points with low weight release systems. This work was completed by April 2002. Attention was also drawn to many other ligature points which should also be removed including wardrobe rails, door closers, rigid fixed coat hooks, door handles, window mechanisms and radiators.

It is the responsibility of the trust and their professional advisors to satisfy themselves that all measures possible have been taken to eliminate the risk of self-harm by a patient.

"The Architectural Healthcare Environment and its Effects on Patient Health Outcomes" an NHS Estates funded research project undertaken by Sheffield University, includes standards which contribute to a reduction in the risk of suicide.

The standards being used in newly designed psychiatric facilities are providing a very high standard of design quality with good space standards, plenty of natural light and ventilation, privacy and dignity for the patients and access to a range of therapeutic facilities and external spaces.

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