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    A quantitative content analysis of Freedom of Information requests examining the extent and variations of tools and training for conducting suicide risk assessments in NHS Trusts across England

    Fedorowicz, Sophia E, Dempsey, Robert C ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6477-2363, Ellis, Naomi, Mulvey, Olivia and Gidlow, Christopher (2023) A quantitative content analysis of Freedom of Information requests examining the extent and variations of tools and training for conducting suicide risk assessments in NHS Trusts across England. BMJ Open, 13 (10). e072004. ISSN 2044-6055

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    Abstract

    Objectives: Determining the risk for suicide is a difficult endeavour. Clinical guidance in the UK explicitly advises against using risk assessment tools and scales to determine suicide risk. Based on Freedom of Information requests made to NHS trusts in England, this study provides an overview of suicide risk assessment tools in use, training provided in how to use such assessments, and explores implementation of suicide risk assessment guidance in practice in English NHS trusts. Design: A cross-sectional survey of suicide risk assessment tools and training gathered via Freedom of Information requests and subjected to a content analysis. Setting: Freedom of Information requests were submitted to NHS trusts across England. Results: A wide variety of suicide risk assessments toolsere identified as being used in practice, with several trusts reported using more than one tool to determine suicide risk. Forty-one trusts reported using locally developed, unvalidated, tools to assess risk of suicide and 18 stated they do not use a tool. Ten trusts stated they do not train their staff in suicide risk assessment whilst 13 reported use of specific suicide risk assessment training. Sixty-two trusts stated they do not centrally record the number of assessments conducted or how many individuals are identified as at risk. Content analysis indicated the frequent wider assessment of risk not restricted to suicide risk. Conclusions: There is wide variation in suicide risk assessment tools being used in practice and some lack of specific training for healthcare staff in determining suicide risk. Few trusts routinely record the number of assessments being conducted or the numbers of individuals identified at high risk. Implementation of specific training is necessary for the suicide risk assessment process to identify patient needs and develop therapeutic engagement. Routinely recording how many assessments are conducted is a crucial step in improving suicide prevention.

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