National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: March 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, held on 31 March.

Attendees and apologies

  • Ms Rose Fitzpatrick (Chair)
  • Ms Julie Cameron
  • Dr Alastair Cook
  • Ms Fiona Drouet
  • Mr Nigel Henderson
  • Chief Superintendent Linda Jones
  • Dr Amy Knighton
  • Ms Jane O’Donnell
  • Ms Angela Scott
  • Ms Claire Sweeney
  • Mr Billy Watson

In attendance

  • Professor Rory O’Connor (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Professor Steve Platt (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Ms Haylis Smith (COSLA, NSPLG Actions 1 & 10 Delivery Lead)
  • Sgt Laura Gibson (Police Scotland, NSPLG Action 6 Delivery Lead)
  • Ms Fiona MacKenzie (Public Health Scotland)
  • Mr Andy Grierson (Programme Manager)
  • Ms Amy Kirkpatrick (Scottish Government)
  • Mr Keir McDonald (Scottish Government)
  • Ms Morag Williamson (Scottish Government)
  • Mr Craig Wilson (Scottish Government)


  • Ms Rachel Cackett
  • Dr David Hall
  • Mr Warren Hawke
  • Ms Lara McDonald
  • Mr Alan Thornburrow

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

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

The Chair noted that Sgt. Gibson and Ms Smith would be joining the meeting for agenda item 4 and Ms MacKenzie would be giving an update on timely data at agenda item 5. The Chair welcomed Mr McDonald from the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention and Self Harm Policy team to the meeting.

The Chair reported that Dr Carol Buchanan has agreed to become a Member of the Group and will represent Health and Social Care Partnerships following Dr Michael Smith’s retirement. Dr Buchanan will join the Group’s meeting in May.


Apologies were noted.

February 2021 minutes

The Chair noted that the minutes from the Group’s meeting in February had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the Secretariat and sent to her to sign off. Action 21.1

New members introduction

The Chair welcomed new Members – Ms Cameron, Chief Superintendent Jones and Ms Sweeney – to the Group and invited them to introduce themselves and give a brief overview of their background.

Strategy development update

It was reported that both the Minister for Mental Health and COSLA remain fully committed to a joint, long term suicide prevention strategy. Officials are currently developing an approach and timeline to support the development of the strategy, whilst also ensuring the focus on delivery remains strong.

It was noted that the Minister and COSLA greatly value the insight and experience of the Group and the role that they play in delivering work around suicide prevention, and the Group will play a key role in shaping the future strategy. They are also pleased that lived experience, and national and local planning, remains central to the work the Group leads. The Group noted with interest the commitment demonstrated by all COSLA councillors, who would shortly receive Mental Health First Aid Training.

The Chair undertook to share a short update on the future strategy with the wider NSPLG network. Action 21.2

It was noted that the Minister for Mental Health issued a letter to stakeholders regarding the Scottish Government’s £120 million for a Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund in the 2021/22 financial year. It was highlighted that this funding is non-recurring and should support transformative change and improvement. It was noted that work is ongoing with Delivery Leads to consider  funding, and a budget planning workshop will take place on 30 April. 

Suicide Prevention Action Plan (SPAP) update

Action one – local planning

Suicide prevention guidance for local areas will be published in April by COSLA. Work is underway with communication colleagues to launch this. It will be published in final form by the Scottish Government after the election period.  The Chair thanked the sponsor for this work, Ms O’Donnell, and Delivery Lead, Ms Smith, for their commitment to delivering this important resource to local colleagues.

Action three – public awareness

A survey was sent to the 2,222 people who have signed up to the United to Prevent Suicide (UTPS) social movement and there was a positive response rate (20%). It was highlighted that there are three core objectives for the social movement in 2021: support and grow the social movement; strengthen relationships with stakeholders; and continue to raise public awareness through targeted campaigns. A report outlining the survey analysis, and the social movement’s objectives and work plan activities for 2021, will be shared with the Group.  The Chair thanked the UTPS Social Movement Development Manager, for taking this forward. It was noted that plans were being developed for two new public awareness campaigns in 2021, one aimed at children and young people, and the other specifically at men.  Action 21.3

Action four – bereavement support

Penumbra and Support in Mind Scotland have been selected to deliver the suicide bereavement pilots in the areas of Ayrshire & Arran and Highland. The pilot is expected to go live in June. An evaluation framework has been developed and an evaluation partner selected. Work is ongoing to develop a national oversight group and research advisory group.

Action five – crisis support

A paper setting out recommendations for an approach founded in the ethos of and creating conditions which promote time, space and compassion in suicide crisis support was issued to the Group on 29 March 2021. Members were invited to provide feedback to Ms Smith by 7 April 2021. Action 21.4

Action six – digital

A business case was circulated to the Group regarding a Google-Ads campaign / suicide prevention NHS Inform page. This received positive support with points for consideration. Work is underway to finalise the proposal and a follow up business case will be shared with the group in the next few weeks.

Engagement is underway with the Scottish Tech Army to explore a Digital Innovation Challenge project. The NSPLG’s Academic Advisory Group (AAG), Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Tech Army will meet to look at access to available data on suicide. It was noted that the Scottish Tech Army have made a digital support offer to other Delivery Leads across all actions.  It was important that this be co-ordinated through the Action 6 Delivery Lead, Sgt. Gibson, and any direct approaches should be referred to her.

Further opportunities were identified to bring in lived experience to the NHS Inform page, including inviting blogs from the Lived Experience Panel as well as any members of the United to Prevent Suicide social movement who wished to share their stories.

Action seven – at-risk groups

The AAG is currently undertaking two rapid reviews: (a) interventions to mitigate suicide risk among veterans and military personnel, and (b) risk and protective factors associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours in BAME population. Work is also underway with Poppyscotland on veterans. Members were asked to contact the Action 7 Delivery Lead with any suggestions of alternative routes to access the veteran community to bolster the current fieldwork. Action 21.5

Action eight – children & young people

A Delivery Lead, Ms Jenny Ferguson, has been appointed for Action 8, and has been connecting with other Delivery Leads and engaging with local suicide prevention leads. She is undertaking work to scope the actions within the Suicide Prevention Action Plan to identify where priority can be given to Children and Young People across the action plan. It was noted that a proposal setting out further work around Action 8 will be shared with the Group in due course.

Action ten – reviews

It was reported there are ongoing challenges with information governance issues, and engagement is taking place with Police Scotland on data collection. It was noted that as there is a range of bereavement support in local areas it is intended to pilot the review process in the Action 4 pilot areas where possible, which would support the involvement of families and carers in the review process. 

More timely data on suicidal behaviour

Ms MacKenzie gave an update on work around producing more timely suicide data. Positive progress was being made, with valuable support from Police Scotland. The Group noted the value this data would bring to local suicide prevention planning and thanked Ms MacKenzie for her contribution to its work, wishing her well in the new role to which she would shortly be moving.

Conclusion and date of next meeting

The Chair highlighted that this was Mr Grierson’s last meeting as Programme Manager. She and the Group thanked him wholeheartedly for his personal and professional contribution and commitment to suicide prevention generally and to the national SPAP programme specifically over the last two years. 

It was highlighted that an animation explaining the work of the NSPLG had been produced by the NSPLG Communications Lead and members of the Lived Experience Panel. The Group noted their appreciation of this resource.

The Chair thanked everyone for their contributions and confirmed that the next meeting would take place on 26 May.

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