Saint Catherine’s develops new package to help patients who may be at risk of suicide

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Saint Catherine’s develops new package to help patients who may be at risk of suicide

November 1st 2021

Specialist teams at Saint Catherine’s Hospice in Scarborough have developed a new assessment package to help look after patients who may be at risk of suicide.

The project has been headed up by Dr John Ashfield, Patient and Family Support Services Team Leader, who recognised there was a need for sound clinical assessment and decision making with patients disclosing suicidal thoughts.

Dr Ashfield and colleagues have created a ‘train-the-trainer’ Suicide Assessment Guidelines package, suitable for all settings of hospice and palliative care.

Dr Ashfield explained: “Many palliative care settings do not have suitable guidelines for use by appropriate staff working with patients and carers. Nor has train-the-trainer education been available to palliative care organisations for this purpose.

“This means that clinical decisions are often made and actions taken, in regard to suicidal ideation, without reference to consistent criteria, and thus may not constitute adequate risk management.

“Staff may also find themselves feeling anxious and unsure about their observations and decision-making, in the absence of clear guidelines to assist them in assessment and subsequent action.”

With a background in preventative mental health and suicide prevention, and as a former clinical practitioner in community mental health, Dr Ashfield has sought to create a simple, practical, and reliable resource suitable for use by a range of health professionals.

The package has been used internally at Saint Catherine’s, with positive feedback from clinicians. For example, one of the team, a consultant in palliative medicine, said: “These are really useful suicide assessment guidelines which offer practical help, guidance and structure when assessing patients in challenging clinical scenarios involving suicidal ideation.

“This can be one of the most difficult areas of our practice so this is an excellent tool to have when required.”

The Suicide Assessment Guidelines are intended as a guide for clinical decision-making, and are based on known and significant risk factors of suicide. Protective factors e.g. engaging in psychological therapy, or known active help-seeking behaviour have been attributed a value which is deducted from the overall score.

Once a level of risk is ascertained using the guidelines, suggestions are made concerning what might be appropriate action for the different categories of persons using them (whether medical, nursing, or allied health practitioners).

The package consists of:

•             A dynamic SystmOne Suicide Assessment Guidelines format, which can be easily uploaded.

•             A spreadsheet Suicide Assessment Guidelines format (if SystmOne is not your patient administration system).

•             A hardcopy version (printed booklet) of the Suicide Assessment Guidelines.

•             A ready-made procedure.

•             Train the Trainer education for your nominated staff via videoconferencing hour, plus a trainer PowerPoint presentation.

•             The Suicide Assessment Guidelines (all formats) and procedure:

–              Have been examined for information governance compliance.

–              Have been endorsed through a clinical governance evaluation process.

–              Can be customised for local use.

For further information, or if you would be interested in using the guidelines in a healthcare setting, please email

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