Psychiatric in-patient care in England: as safe as it can be? An examination of in-patient suicide between 2009 and 2020

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Background. Psychiatric in-patients have a greatly elevated risk of suicide. We aimed to examine trends in in-patient suicide rates and determine if characteristics of in-patients who died by suicide have changed over time.
Methods. We identified all in-patients in England who died by suicide between 2009 and 2020 from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health. Suicide rates were calculated using data from Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES).
Results. The rate of in-patient suicide per 100,000 bed days fell by 41.9% between 2009-2011 and 2018-2020. However, since 2016 the rate has remained static with no significant fall. Rates fell in men, those aged 30-59, and those with schizophrenia and other delusional disorders or personality disorder. Rates also fell for suicide by hanging (including hanging on the ward) and jumping. No falls were seen in suicide rates among women, younger and older age groups, and those with affective disorder. There was no indication of a transfer of risk to the post-discharge period or to home treatment/crisis care. More in-patients in the latter part of the study were aged under 25, were on authorised leave, and had psychiatric comorbidity.
Conclusions. In-patient suicide has significantly fallen since 2009, suggesting patient safety may have improved. The recent slowdown in the fall in rates, however, highlights renewed preventative efforts are needed. These should include a greater focus on women, younger and older patients, and those with affective disorder. Careful reviews prior to granting leave are important to ensure a safe transition into the community.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
Early online date12 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2024


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