Health secretary Jeremy Hunt will today call on the NHS to aim for "zero suicides".

Around 80 deaths by suicide occur every year on NHS sites.

The minister will say a target of zero is attainable and within reach in a speech at a National Suicide Prevention Alliance event.

“The UK has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, not least thanks to some very good NHS care. But the uncomfortable truth is that every NHS inpatient’s suicide is a potential failure of care,” Hunt will say.

“If we want to offer the highest standards of mental health provision we should recognise that the causes of an inpatient suicide may be systemic but are never inevitable."

“Every single such death causes untold misery to families and also to NHS staff, so it is right to set our sights high and aim for nothing less than zero inpatient suicides," he will add.


Mind spokesperson Vicki Nash said: “Suicides are not inevitable – they can be prevented with the right support in place. Nobody who is in touch with services, asking for help, should reach the point of taking their own life. This includes if someone is at their most vulnerable and in hospital for their mental health."

“Trusts need to make sure people receive a high standard of treatment in a safe and therapeutic environment,” she said. “Too many families lose loved ones to suicide every year and in so many cases such tragedies can be prevented.”

Dr Adrian James, policy lead and registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, welcomed the aspiration but guarded against it becoming an enforced target.

“There has been a bit of a defensive culture at times, for understandable reasons, as it is sometimes seen as inevitable,” Dr James told The Independent.

“When it does happen it’s very easy to look at the things you do right rather than thinking ‘hand on heart what could we have done to prevent this suicide?’”

“If this is a push in that direction that’s got to be a good thing, but we’ve got to ensure that the resources and the support, and the wider national culture, go with it.