Association of Ambulance Chief Executives releases strategy to combat suicide

A formal plan to prevent suicide in the ambulance service has been released by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

The release of three key documents was made public last night at the Ambulance Leadership Forum, which took place virtually yesterday.

The plan is separated into three different publications, titled ‘A National Consensus Statement for England, What We Know, and Next Steps’. The overall name for the strategy is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide in the Ambulance Service’.

The 31-page plan is supported by several organisations, including the College of Paramedics, Public Health England, NHS England and NHS Improvement, Health Education England, South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, University of East Anglia, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Samaritans, NHS Employers, The Ambulance Staff Charity, Mind Blue Light Programme, and East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Research published by the Office for National Statistics in 2017 found that the risk for male paramedics is 75% higher than any other healthcare professional.

As part of the guidance in the publication, the AACE listed a range of commitments to implement across ambulance services, which include:

  • Promote a positive mental health culture in the workplace through leadership, communication, policy and procedure, environment and work/job design.
  • Reduce stigma around mental health conditions and psychological stress in the workplace.
  • Improve the mental health literacy of the workforce
  • Develop the capability of staff to interact with and help someone experiencing a mental health crisis, from identification through to return to work.
  • Ensure that an integrated approach to mental health and wellbeing is woven through the workplace and that leaders at all levels model behaviours and practices that promote a mentally healthy workplace culture.
  • Share examples of best practice and effective initiatives between services.
  • Collaborate to ensure staff, during each phase of their career, have adequate self-awareness, knowledge and support in relation to managing their personal mental health and psychological stress triggers.
  • Implement systems that provide the service with early notification of potential psychological harm-related risk.
  • Collect, monitor and respond to data that evaluates the mental health and wellbeing of the workforce and the possibility of psychological harm occurring.
  • Seek internal/external specialist expertise when necessary to achieve improved mental health and wellbeing outcome or the workforce.

Liz Harris, Head of Professional Standards, College of Paramedics said: “I am very pleased and proud to have been part of this work with our Chief Executive Tracy Nicholls, and colleagues Jo Mildenhall and Sasha Johnson from our Paramedic Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group.

“These publications represent a very visible and firm step forwards towards reducing the number of our colleagues that tragically die by suicide…there is still more work to be done, and we will not stop or rest here.

“The excellent collaborative group work will continue under the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, and I look forward to the release of more publications coming soon from TASC and The Samaritans. The College of Paramedics will continue to be completely committed to this valuable working group and also to [its] own project, starting imminently, to develop resources to better support the mental health and wellbeing of student paramedics and those in our profession who are newly qualified.”