National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: February 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 2 February 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ms Rose Fitzpatrick (Chair) 

  • Mr Mike Burns

  • Ms Rachel Cackett

  • Ms Julie Cameron

  • Dr Alastair Cook

  • Ms Nicola Dickie

  • Ms Fiona Drouet

  • Dr David Hall 

  • Chief Superintendent Linda Jones

  • Dr Amy Knighton

  • Ms Angela Scott

  • Ms Claire Sweeney

  • Mr Alan Thornburrow

  • Mr Billy Watson


  • Dr Carol Buchanan

  • Ms Nicky Reid

In attendance

  • Professor Rory O’Connor, Academic Advisory Group

  • Professor Steve Platt, Academic Advisory Group

  • Ms Laura MacDonald, Programme Manager

  • Ms Claire MacBride-Stewart, Programme Support Officer

Scottish Government

  • Mr James Brown

  • Mr Dominic Burns

  • Ms Morag Williamson

  • Mr Craig Wilson

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed members to the twenty sixth meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) (“the Group”). 

The Chair reported that three new members had joined the Group’s Lived Experience Panel. It was noted that the new members are male which means the gender mix of the panel better reflects the gender balance of lives lost to suicide. It was also reported that recruitment was underway for six new posts to support the implementation of local suicide prevention activity across Scotland. The posts would be hosted by Public Health Scotland, and funded by the Scottish Government.


Apologies were noted.

November 2021 minutes

The Chair noted that the minutes from the group’s meeting in November had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the Secretariat and sent to her to sign off. Action 26.1

Suicide Prevention Action Plan (SPAP) – programme management update

A programme update and milestone map was shared with the group prior to the meeting. The Chair noted that the future versions of the milestone map would include updates on the actions supplementary to the Suicide Prevention Action Plan which include the north east collaboration work, access to means of suicide, and timely data. She also requested that an update on Action 2 be included for the next meeting. Action 26.2 

Members were invited to raise any questions or concerns. It was reported that the first annual report of Action 4’s Suicide Bereavement Support Service was due in March 2022 (now April). However, it was noted that the service did not go public facing until August 2021 and this would be reflected in the report.

Ms Cackett reported that the Suicidal Crisis Action Support Group (resulting from Action 5 recommendations) had been established and whilst she would be representing the NSPLG, there would also be direct engagement between NSPLG and Nigel Henderson in his role as National Lead for the work. In connection with Action 8 she also reported that Samaritans had been in discussion with Network Rail in relation to safety at railways and it had been suggested that safety messaging at railway stations could be tailored to reach young people. Ms Cackett undertook to pick this up with Ms Drouet.

It was noted that there had been delays in the establishment of the Action 8 Youth Advisory Group due to the impact the pandemic had had on the capacity for non-Covid-related Scottish Government procurement exercises. This issue was being addressed by officials.

Safer online suicidal journeys

Sgt. Laura Gibson, Delivery Lead for Action 6 - Digital, and Dr Donald McIntyre, NHS 24, gave an update on the Safer Online Suicidal Journeys project. User research had been carried out in November 2021 to understand user needs for the digital marketing campaign. This provided a good mix of professional and personal experience, across different geographic areas. Dr McIntyre shared the key findings from the research and noted that the analysis of the results had been completed and would inform the digital content.

There had been some delays to timescales due to the pandemic. Filming of VLOGs was taking place in January and February 2022 and the planned launch date was April 2022. It was noted that volunteers from the NSPLG’s Lived Experience Panel (LEP) would be involved in the filming, and this would be bolstered with further volunteers from SAMH and SeeMe given the number of asks on LEP members. It was highlighted that volunteers would be recruited on the stipulation that safeguarding was in place by their host organisations and that there would be a flexible approach in sharing their stories. Methods such as written statements or audio recordings would be available to those who did not want to appear on film. Sgt Gibson asked the group to contact her with any other suggestions for individuals or groups of volunteers associated with their organisation, who would be willing to share their lived experience of suicide for the project. She reiterated that respective organaisations would be required to put safeguarding measures in place for the volunteers. Action 26.3

It was reported that evaluation of the project would take place in collaboration with NHS Digital Analytics, the NSPLG Academic Advisory Group and continued user research following the launch. Future phases of the project would include considering “at risk” groups.

The Chair thanked Sgt Gibson and Dr McIntyre for their presentation and for the work they had put into the project, which members agreed was shaping up very positively. The secretariat undertook to share the Group’s written feedback from the Zoom chat with Sgt Gibson and Dr McIntyre. Action 26.4. Ms Cackett highlighted that research had been undertaken by Samaritans on user experience and online harms, and Samaritans would issue a press release on the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill being introduced by the UK Government, and she would share this with the Chair and policy team. Action 26.5

NSPLG new ways of working

The Chair announced that, after two years of online meetings and soundings from members, the group’s next meeting would take place in person with the option of dial in for those who wished. Members were asked to contact the secretariat with options of accommodation for the meeting on 30 March 2022. 

The Chair reported it was proposed that revised Terms of Reference (TOR) for the group would take effect from September 2022 (to support the next Scottish Government/COSLA suicide prevention strategy), and these would be drafted (as far as was possible in advance of finalisation of the strategy itself) and circulated for consideration at the next meeting. The proposal would be formally submitted to the Scottish Government and COSLA in early May 2022. The proposed TOR would include a draft proposal on group membership to reflect the broadening of the new strategy beyond mental health policy. Members shared their initial thoughts and noted that the TOR should reflect the group’s intended shift from a delivery to an advisory role, its expertise and consider where the group could best add value to work around suicide prevention.

There was a broad discussion around the group’s future ways of working. It was highlighted that ongoing engagement with young people is vital and it was suggested that this could be done through schools to ensure young people are able to develop life skills that enable them to navigate feelings of low mood and suicidality. It was noted that this would require engagement and collaboration with individual head teachers as well as local authorities. 

It was highlighted that when considering “at risk” groups, the group should think about areas of suicide prevention that should be prioritised to address their needs, through protective and risk factors. It was suggested that the group should consider on the basis of available evidence which groups and communities could be recommended for prioritisation to achieve greatest impact in reducing suicide deaths.

It was highlighted that while the next Suicide Prevention Strategy would be led by the Scottish Government and COSLA, consideration should be given to the role of Public Health Scotland and community planning partnerships in delivering the outcomes. Other considerations around the purpose of the group in the future included strategic advice and oversight of the strategy and plan, strategic influence/championing, and advising the Government and COSLA. It was noted that while the group should have a strategic, influencing role in any scenario, it should not lose focus on delivering real change on the ground, building on what it had done since 2018 in delivering the SPAP. It was highlighted that there is strength in partnership, and the NSPLG had been very successful in creating a united group to drive suicide prevention in Scotland. Looking ahead, there may be some aspects of suicide prevention national leadership where a more streamlined approach would work effectively. Once the new strategy and delivery arrangements became clearer, this could be considered further.

It was highlighted that membership of the group would continue to be critical to its effectiveness and members should consider what unique value they bring to the group. It was suggested that consideration should be given to representation and insights from diverse groups. 

It was suggested that the Scottish Government should consider how the whole of Government, across all policy areas, would engage with and contribute to delivering the new suicide prevention strategy. It was noted that there was an opportunity to consolidate learning and deliver focused outcomes.

Key NSPLG priorities to September 2022

The Chair reported that the group had previously discussed four key priorities for focused delivery up to September 2022, and while work on all strands of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan would continue, additional focus and effort would be applied to these four areas to create a strong foundation of evidence and action for the new strategy. The four priorities were: 

  • focus on Action 8 mitigating heightened risks to children and young people, including establishing the Youth Advisory Group which will in turn support a new phase of the Action 3 public awareness campaign, focusing on children and young people over the summer
  • continued focus on Action 10 - Suicide Review processes
  • continued focus on Action 7 – At Risk Groups – drawing from evidence including the recommendations on improving support for people and communities of colour
  • establish a learning framework to ensure wider learning and application from the emerging North East Strategic Suicide Prevention Partnership

Ms Cackett suggested that the ongoing work around Locations of Concern should be added as a further priority. The Chair undertook to meet with Ms Cackett and Ms Sweeney to discuss this further. Action 26.6

Ms Sweeney shared a presentation on Public Health Scotland’s collaborative learning approach for suicide prevention. The presentation would be shared with the group after the meeting. Action 26.7

Concerns were raised around the proposed transfer of adult and child public protection duties from local authorities to the Government’s National Care Service proposals. It was noted that this could have an impact on the responsibilities of Chief Officer groups who would otherwise be leading local implementation on Action 10 of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan – reviewing all deaths by suicide which take place in community settings. The Chair undertook to write to the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care on behalf of the group to highlight this issue and seek reassurance that any changes to adult and child protection responsibilities will enable the Scottish Government’s commitment under Action 10 to continue, and also provide clarity as to where the responsibility for leading these reviews will lie in the future. Action 26.8


The Chair closed the meeting and thanked the group for their contributions.

The next meeting of the group would take place on 30 March 2022 as a hybrid in-person/online meeting at a venue to be agreed. 

Summary of actions from the NSPLG meeting held on 2 February 2022

  • 26.1 members to send any amendments to the November minutes to the Secretariat
  • 26.2 programme manager to include an update on Action 2 and additional SPAP actions on future versions of the milestone map
  • 26.3 members to contact Sgt Gibson with suggestions of individuals or groups of volunteers who would be willing to share their lived experience of suicide for the Safer Online Suicidal Journeys project
  • 26.4 secretariat to share the group’s feedback from the Zoom chat with Sgt Gibson and Dr McIntyre
  • 26.5 Ms Cackett to share Samaritans press release on online harms legislation with the Chair and policy team
  • 26.6 chair to meet with Ms Cackett and Ms Sweeney to discuss work on Locations of Concern
  • 26.7 secretariat to circulate Ms Sweeney’s presentation on Public Health Scotland’s collaborative learning approach for suicide prevention
  • 26.8 chair to write to the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care on behalf of the group to seek clarification on roles and responsibilities around adult and child protection in relation to the proposed National Care Service
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