Health Professions: Suicide

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Chair, Draft Health Service Safety Investigation Bill (Joint Committee)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many (a) doctors and (b) dentists have died by suicide in each of the last five years; what the average age of such doctors and dentists was when they died; and whether he has plans to create a national service to help health professionals suffering from mental illnesses.

Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

This information is not collected centrally.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) does collect some data relating to the number of suicides registered in England and Wales between 2013 – 2017 where the occupation was recorded as medical practitioner or dental practitioner on the death certificate.

This information is contained in the following tables.

Number of deaths1

Registration year

England

Wales

2013

20

:

2014

18

3

2015

14

:

2016

13

:

2017

18

:

Total

83

6

Number of suicides in England and Wales for dental practitioners, deaths registered between 2013 and 2017.

Number of deaths2

Registration year

England

Wales

2013

3

:

2014

3

:

2015

3

:

2016

7

:

2017

3

:

Total

19

3

Notes:

1For disclosure control, any cells where the count of deaths is lower than three have been supressed and marked “:” to show this.

2Figures are for deaths registered, rather than deaths occurring in each calendar year. Due to the length of time it takes to complete a coroner’s inquest, it can take months or even years for a suicide to be registered. More details can be found in the ‘suicide registrations in the UK’ statistical bulletin at the following link:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations

Data on the average age of death by each occupation is not recorded by the ONS. Deaths registered in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017, indicate the average age of death by suicide was 45 years for medical practitioners and 49 years for dental practitioners.

Number of suicides in England and Wales for medical practitioners, deaths registered between 2013 and 2017.

Due to small numbers of deaths, ONS are unable to provide the average age of death by year for each occupation. When looking at deaths registered in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017, the average age of death was 45 years for medical practitioners and 49 years for dental practitioners. Data on occupation is restricted to those aged 20 to 64 years, those of working age; this impacts the average age of death, something that should be interpreted with caution. The average age of death does not necessarily reflect the age at which people in these professions are at highest risk of suicide, and is not comparable with statistics produced by the ONS on life expectancy in the general population.

The health and wellbeing of all our National Health Service staff is a top priority and, in July, NHS England published its NHS staff health and wellbeing framework which complements our recent announcement of quicker access to mental health services such as counselling and talking therapies for staff who need them. This will help deliver our manifesto promise to “introduce new services for employees to give them the support they need including quicker access to mental health services”.

This builds on NHS England’s “Commissioning for Quality and Innovation” incentive scheme encouraging employers to invest in services to help staff stay physically and mentally fit and well and NHS Improvement’s ongoing work in collaboration with the NHS to improve staff health and wellbeing and reduce sickness absence.

In 2017, NHS England launched the NHS GP Health service, a nationally-funded confidential service which specialises in supporting general practitioners (GPs) and trainee GPs experiencing mental ill health and which has already helped more than 1,500 GPs.

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