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Department of Health’s national suicide prevention strategy fails to warn NHS of the suicide risk associated with employment and support allowance (ESA). 

What: It emerges that the latest version of the Department of Health’s national suicide prevention strategy, published in January 2017, failed to warn NHS bodies and other local services that ESA claimants were at a hugely-increased risk of attempting to take their own lives. The strategy was published four months after NHS Digital produced the results of its Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which showed that more than 43 per cent of ESA claimants had said (when asked in 2014) that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. But the suicide prevention strategy fails to mention these figures or to highlight ESA claimants as a high-risk group, even though it briefly mentions DWP guidance for dealing with ESA claimants who may be at risk of suicide or self-harm.

Why significant: Shows again the government’s failure to protect ESA claimants at risk of suicide.


Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014.
Preventing suicide in England: Third progress report of the cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives