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By Mark Smulian ...
By Mark Smulian

Many suicides could be averted if public and voluntary sector bodies collaborated and shared information, the first ever investigation by a scrutiny board into such deaths has found.

Camden LBC launched the inquiry under its health scrutiny powers because it has the UK's highest suicide rate, with 36 incidents a year.

Its recommendations ranged from a 'crisis house' in the borough for people at risk, to safety work by Transport for London on a bridge that sees 16 suicide attempts a year.

John Bryant (Lib Dem) who chaired the all-party inquiry, said it had been 'very rewarding' for councillors to take evidence from those who had attempted suicide or been bereaved by it'.

'We had to be a bit creative around the rules on public access to meetings so they could give evidence in private,' he said.

'People were remarkably frank and I think found it was good to express themselves. They felt what they had to say might help others.'

The inquiry also heard from voluntary and statutory services and found scope for wider collaboration around the problems of people at risk.

Mr Bryant said: 'There is no single explanation for suicide, but there were some reasons why Camden has such a high level. We have three mainline stations and people in distress can turn up in London, find they make no progress here and then commit suicide in the borough.

'Young men and drug abusers have a higher propensity to suicide and we have above average numbers. But there is also a higher than average level of suicides among women aged 35-56, and we do not yet know why.'

The inquiry found people at risk of suicide were more likely to trust voluntary organisations than council or health services, as they feared statutory bodies might section them.

Other recommendations include better sharing of information between health, council and voluntary services, seven-day working for relevant hospitals and day centres and a policy that mentally ill patients should retain their original doctor when they move within the borough.

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