North West Ambulance Service

We serve more than 7 million people across approximately 5,400 square miles – the communities of Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire and Glossop. We receive approximately 1.3 million emergency 999 calls and our Patient Transport Service undertakes 1.5 million journeys per year to those who need non emergency transport to attend healthcare appointments. We deliver the NHS 111 service across the region handling more that 1.5 million calls per year.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

The aim of North West Ambulance Service is to be the best ambulance service in the country by delivering the right care, at the right time, in the right place, every time. Mental health has been identified as a priority for our organisation and suicide prevention has been identified as a key area for development within our Right Care Strategy and our Mental Health and Dementia Strategic Plan – both of which were launched in 2019.

We are working closely with our partners in terms of embedding a multi-agency approach to suicide prevention, we have an NWAS Suicide Prevention steering group that is representative of the whole of our organisation and we have a programme of work which will take us up to 2022.

We recognise that our staff are our main asset, and due to the nature of their work are exposed to trauma and this can impact on mental health – we are committed to promoting good mental health within our staff from recruitment until retirement and this work is underpinned by our Staff Wellbeing Framework/Strategy.

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What are your current priorities?

– The upskilling and training of our staff in relation to mental health including suicide prevention skills which include prevention, intervention and postvention

– Refining and utilising our data in relation to suicide and self-harm to identify trends and themes and developing mechanism to share our information with partners to ensure improved outcomes for patients. We have developed an information dashboard related to our work in suicide prevention and are working with our Public Health/ICS colleagues on the development of a regional dashboard for Real Time Surveillance on suicides, suicide attempts and self harm

– Working within our communities and in collaboration with our local and regional multi-agency suicide prevention networks to reduce and eliminate suicide

– To ensure our staff are supported in terms of their own mental health and that if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts there are clear support mechanisms in place. We continue to work with national colleagues and AACE (Ambulance Association of Chief Executives) to develop guidance and support tools for staff as well as our own organisational document on supporting staff who are suicidal or for those who may sadly die by suicide.

– Lived Experience – North West Ambulance is committed to listening to the voice of patients and those with lived experience. We have two patient panel members who are part of our Suicide and Self Harm prevention. Their unique and personal insight is pivotal to the work we do and care we provide.

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What challenges are you currently facing?

– The capacity to ensure that we are linked into all the locality-based suicide prevention strategy meetings

– A lack of crisis support pathways outside of the Emergency Department for our staff to convey to when patients are suicidal

– Mental health training has historically been limited within the Ambulance Service – this is a national picture that we are addressing, but we have over 6,000 staff to train, which is a challenge. We have been working closely with our Public health/ICS colleagues to source training across our footprint and continue to develop our own internal training package around mental health in line with national priorities/work streams.

– Ensuring that our staff know that it is ‘safe to talk’ when they are experiencing mental distress; there is still a stigma which is again improving slowly.

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