Saving lives can’t wait: why the Government must renew local suicide prevention funding 

15 November 2023
By Ollie Vickers

As a councillor in Telford and Wrekin, and Co-Chair of the local Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, I feel passionately about suicide prevention. Every week I hear from local residents who are struggling, and through my role on the committee I see the challenges many people face with their mental and physical health.  

Telford and Wrekin faces a unique set of risk factors when it comes to suicidal thoughts or behaviours. We have a high level of deprivation in the borough, a large population of veterans, and many people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.  

Like other local areas in England, our borough benefits from dedicated funding to create suicide-safer communities, and ultimately reduce the number of deaths by suicide.  

The benefit of this funding being managed at a local level has been that we’ve been able to use our knowledge of the communities in our area to target interventions effectively, creating programmes that will make the most difference in saving lives in Telford and Wrekin. We’ve set up an action group that meets regularly to coordinate suicide prevention work, including charities like Age Concern and Telford Mind, GPs, and representatives from groups such as veterans. We’ve upskilled the wider suicide prevention workforce: teachers, NHS staff and housing officers, among many others. And we’ve held public events to reduce stigma and encourage people to seek help.   

One programme that we’re especially proud of is our A&E – or ‘Assist and Engage’ – service that’s been running now for 14 months. Our Suicide Prevention Lead identified that there was a gap in the support people were given when attending A&E with suicidal ideation. Many didn’t meet the criteria for additional support, and so were sent away with just a leaflet. After reading a coroner’s report of a tragic death by suicide of someone locally, when they had arrived at A&E asking for help but were sent away, she decided to act. ‘Assist and Engage’ now means that anyone who presents at the Princess Royal Hospital with suicidal ideation should be offered a support worker to help them directly at the right time.  

But the funding that is currently making these programmes possible has already come to an end in many areas with higher rates of suicide, and is about to run out completely. The initial £38 million allocated for suicide prevention across England through the NHS Long Term Plan in 2019 will end for all areas in March. This can’t be allowed to happen. Renewing this funding for the lifetime of the Government’s new five-year suicide prevention strategy, and increasing it in line with inflation, would only cost around £77.1 million – Samaritans estimate just £1.40 per person. This is pocket change in comparison to other Government spending.  

The Government has a vital chance in the Autumn Statement on November 22nd to renew this funding instead of watching on as it draws to an end. I hope they do the right thing. For Telford and Wrekin, having this funding renewed would mean we could continue our current suicide prevention programmes and even start many more. It would mean we could save more lives. Please support the campaign: take this simple action through Samaritans to email your MP.  


Centre for Mental Health is supporting councils through the Mentally Healthier Councils Network which enables local champions (elected or otherwise) to come together, learn, to influence and innovate. 

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