Scotland

Suicide warnings in Scottish hospitals 'ignored'

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
Image caption Papers seen by the BBC show the hospital did not implement some recommendations from its own board

Fifty people have taken their own lives in Scottish hospitals over the past four years, the BBC has learned.

The deaths occurred despite repeated warnings over health and safety measures - including ones at Glasgow's new £842m flagship hospital.

The hospital refused to implement its board's recommendations on risks to patients who wanted to take their own life, papers seen by the BBC show.

The health board said the building met regulations for an acute hospital.

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "If a patient has been assessed as being 'at risk' of harming themselves but needs acute clinical care, appropriate support will be put in place for that patient."

The families of victims are now asking why lessons have not been learnt.

Despite pledges from the Scottish government to reduce the number of suicides, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 50 patients have taken their own lives while in hospital over the past four years.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK. And although overall figures are falling, those inside hospitals are not.

Papers seen by the BBC show that the new Queen Elizabeth University hospital in Glasgow was built with ligature points - despite warnings from the board.

Last year a patient at the hospital died by suicide but board minutes from the autumn seen by the BBC say: "No further action was planned with regard to ligature points although risk assessments would be undertaken to allocate 'at risk' patients to appropriate wards."

Because it is a new hospital, board members said they "found it regrettable that the specification for the area in question had not followed that of a psychiatric hospital".

"Mr Loudon noted that the design brief for the hospital had not asked for a full anti-ligature specification throughout the building."

The minutes also state: "Ms Brown was worried that members having pursued this for so long, that it was only now that an accredited risk assessment tool was being used to assess the risks.

"She endorsed the suspension of use of the roof garden and remained dissatisfied with the actions to identify and remove ligature points in the hospitals and that this should be reviewed further with a plan for removal."

Image caption Jodie McNab took her own life at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth

Other deaths have occurred at Murray Royal Hospital in Perth.

Jodie McNab was 22 when she took her own life at the hospital. Her mother, Tracy Swan, had moved to a new house right next to the hospital weeks before.

"We bought this house just a few weeks before Jodie was admitted," she said.

"Now it's a constant reminder. Sometimes I don't mind - I'm close to where she died. Other times I get so angry just looking at the building.

"In this day and age this should be preventable. She was supposed to be in a place of safety. Her room was supposed to be kitted out for people who were suicidal.

"She was admitted to Murray Royal under section and under constant observation... Jodie's death was entirely preventable."

Tayside health board assured the family that lessons would be learned but last autumn two women died by suicide in the same hospital just days apart.

Image caption Tracy Swan said her daughter's death was preventable

The Crown Office is investigating all three deaths.

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: "As this is a legal matter it would not be appropriate for us to comment."

Roger Livermore, a former NHS inspector and prosecutor, said: "They [these deaths] really shouldn't be happening. Such deaths should be extremely rare if they happen at all.

"The underlying problem is that Scottish ministers have refused to implement the law on patient safety. The philosophy has got to be no suicides whereas the current philosophy is to reduce suicides, but that is not what the law requires."

Maureen Watt, the Minister for Mental Health, said: "Any death by suicide is a tragedy which has a terrible effect on a person's family, friends and community. The Scottish suicide rate fell by 17.8% between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014.

"There is a considerable amount of work under way to ensure this downward trend continues. NHS boards do everything they can to prevent suicides from happening in hospitals."

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