Guidance on providing support following a suicide in primary care

SOM, the Society of Occupational Medicine, has collaborated with the Louise Tebboth Foundation to launch a report on providing care and support within primary care following the suicide of a colleague.

The report, Responding to the death by suicide of a colleague in primary care: a postvention framework, has drawn on interviews with people working in GP practices who have personal experiences of a death by suicide within their team.

It includes a review of best practice and provides suicide “postvention guidelines”. It also outlines proposals for timely and appropriate support to be put in place to help people and organisations recover.

Guidance covered in the report includes:

  • How to break the news to colleagues and patients
  • How colleagues and patients might respond and how this can be managed
  • The need to monitor the wellbeing of staff and provide ongoing cover, if required
  • Liaising with the family, if appropriate
  • Ways to commemorate the loss
  • The need to identify practical risks to running the practice (short-term and longer-term) and how they can be managed
  • Dealing with ongoing distress among staff
  • The need for support from external sources: particularly guidance on the professional bodies that should be informed, as well as the introduction of a national mentorship scheme and a support group for people to share similar experiences

Dr Clare Gerada, co-chair of the NHS Assembly, said of the report: “This is a timely addition to the support needed for health care staff and organisations when one of their colleagues takes their own life. The document provides an excellent step by step guide as to what to do if this rare but traumatic event happens to a member of staff at work.”

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