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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Bid to cut hospital suicides
Mentally ill patient
60 mentally-ill patients take their own lives each year
Health chiefs have been told to take steps to stop mentally-ill patients from taking their own lives.

The Department of Health has called on health authorities in England to set out detailed action plans for reducing suicide rates in psychiatric wards.

Around 60 mentally-ill patients take their own lives every year. The government has set a target to reduce this figure to zero by 2002.

A recent report found that most patients used standard equipment, including beds, shower and curtain rails, to attempt suicide.

It is a simple fact that there are too many suicides on acute psychiatric wards

Professor Louis Appleby, mental health tsar

Professor Louis Appleby, the government's mental health tsar, said urgent action was needed.

"Immediate action must be taken to prevent mental health in-patients from taking their own lives."

He added: "It is a simple fact that there are too many suicides on acute psychiatric wards, at least 60 each year, many of which are avoidable.

"A recent report found that hanging, particularly from frames such as beds, shower and curtain rails, is the commonest way for mental health in-patients to commit suicide.

"Colapsible rails are readily available so there is no reason for this to continue."

Professor Appleby announced the plan ahead of World Mental Health Day on Tuesday.

He also annoucned plans to establish a national user forum to give mentally ill patients an opportunity to influence directly the development of policy.

Other government plans include measures to give an undertaking to carers telling them what they can expect from the NHS.

A revised contact directory will be published to give advice and practical help to patients and their families.

The Department of Health is also planning a major advertising campaign early next year to tackle discrimination against people with mental health problems.

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