Cuts in NHS funding could reduce, or even close, suicide prevention services in Bedford borough, councillors were told.
Cllr Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur) told councillors last week (11 October) that suicide is the leading cause of death in males under 50 years and females under 35 years in the UK.
“In 2021, 5,219 people in England took their own lives,” she said.
“Local suicide prevention activity is critical, absolutely critical, in preventing suicides, but it costs.
“Currently that cost comes from NHS England dedicating £57 million to local areas for suicide prevention and bereavement support services, but it’s ending.
“Bedford is in wave four which means that the funding for local suicide prevention will come to an end in March 2024 – that’s only five months away – meaning that local suicide prevention activities here in Bedford will have to scale back or stop. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
Cllr Atkins said last month the government committed to reducing suicide rates in England within the next five years, and that it recognised the “crucial role” local areas play in achieving that ambition.
“However, no new money has been attached to the strategy, I repeat no new money has been attached to it,” she said.
“Without proper funding, that promise to reduce suicide rates will not be kept and again that must not be allowed to happen.
“We are talking about saving people’s lives by preventing suicide.
“Therefore we ask the [council’s] chief executive to write to the chancellor of the exchequer asking for ring-fenced suicide prevention funding for local areas to be continued for the lifetime of that five-year strategy,” she said.
Cllr Martin Towler (Conservative, Riseley) said he was also concerned that the funding was coming to an end in March.
“Particularly when so much progress has been made in Bedford borough in the last few years,” he said.
“Sadly an average of 18 people die of suicide every year in Bedford borough.
“The ring-fenced funding has provided us with an opportunity to deliver dedicated suicide prevention work over the last three years including services like Mind BLMK Suicide Prevention Pathway Service.
“A service to support people with suicidal thoughts, who have made previous suicide attempts.
“It also funds CHUMS to deliver specialist bereavement support to those who have been bereaved by suicide, who we know are four times more likely to go on to take their own lives.
“Retaining the ring-fenced funding would enable us to continue this important work and build on the good progress we have made in Bedford borough.
“Suicide can be prevented and we must strive to do everything we can in our power to do so.”
The motion was passed.
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by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter