National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group minutes: September 2020

Minutes of the meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, held on 2 September 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ms Rose Fitzpatrick (Chair)

  • Ms Rachel Cackett

  • Dr Alastair Cook

  • Ms Fiona Drouet

  • Mr Toni Giugliano

  • Dr David Hall

  • Dr Amy Knighton

  • Ms Lara McDonald

  • Ms Jane O’Donnell

  • Ms Nicky Reid

  • Ms Angela Scott

  • Dr Michael Smith

  • Mr Alan Thornburrow

  • Mr Billy Watson

In Attendance

  • Professor Rory O’Connor
  • (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Professor Steve Platt
  • (Academic Advisory Group)
  • Mr Dan Curran (Scottish Government)
  • Mr Andy Grierson (Programme Manager)
  • Mr Frank Reid (Scottish Government)
  • Mr Craig Wilson (Scottish Government)

Guest Speaker

  • Ms Shirley Windsor, (Public Health Scotland/NSPLG Delivery Lead)


  • Mr George Dodds
  • Chief Superintendent Davie Duncan
  • Mr Nigel Henderson

Items and actions

1. Welcome

1.1. The Chair welcomed Members to the seventeenth meeting of the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group (NSPLG) (the Group) and thanked everyone for attending via videoconference. 
1.2. The Chair welcomed Dr Alastair Cook, Principal Medical Officer, Scottish Government to his first meeting as successor to Dr John Mitchell, and Mr Frank Reid, Policy Team, Scottish Government as an observer to the meeting. It was noted that this was Ms Nicky Reid’s last meeting before taking maternity leave. The Chair passed on her good wishes and thanked Ms Reid for her contributions to the Group, especially her recent work around the Action 3 suicide prevention brand and campaign.
1.3. The Chair highlighted that the planned engagement event in October will now be a business meeting and asked Members to keep this time in their diaries
1.4. Apologies were noted.
June Minutes
1.5. The Chair noted that the minutes from the Group’s meeting in June had been circulated for comment and requested that any further comments be collated by the secretariat and sent to her to sign off. Action 17.1

2. COVID Statement Update

2.1. Mr Curran gave an update on the Group’s COVID-19 Statement reporting that it was published on the Scottish Government website on 13 July and the recommendations had been accepted by the Minister and COSLA.  It was noted that the recommendations and commitment for a further suicide prevention strategy were included in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government. The secretariat had shared the statement with various stakeholders and sent the list of stakeholders to the Group.  Members were invited to let the secretariat know of any other stakeholders the statement could be shared with.
2.2. Mr Curran reported that Ms Amy Kirkpatrick had joined the Policy Team as part of the Scottish Government’s Graduate Development Programme and would be working on developing options for a longer term national suicide prevention strategy.  Ms Kirkpatrick would engage with Members to seek feedback on this.  It was noted that the timescale for the next suicide prevention strategy would likely be ten years but this was still to be decided. This would be explored in the coming months and the aim was for the new strategy to follow on seamlessly from the current strategy. 
2.3. Ms Kirkpatrick would also be supporting the work on Action 5 – Crisis Support and looking at emerging themes from the data produced by the recent survey undertaken by the Delivery Lead and Academic Advisory Group.
2.4. Mr Tiago Zortea from the Academic Advisory Group was leading on a review paper on reducing access to means of suicide which would help inform the way forward on this recommendation. It was noted that there was no Delivery Lead in place for this as it was not an action in the Suicide Prevention Action Plan so the Policy Team would explore how to take this forward.
2.5. It was noted that National Records of Scotland (NRS) were due to publish the 2019 data on suicide deaths in November. This is normally published annually in June but was late due to a delay in toxicology testing.
2.6. There was a discussion around real time self-harm and suicide data.  Prof. Platt reported that, although data on suicide deaths appeared to be higher for March-June 2020 than the average number for 2015-2019, the current data on suicide was statistically unreliable as the figures were inflated due to deaths being categorised as “undetermined intent”. This was due to a delay in the production of toxicology reports that National Records of Scotland (NRS) require to ensure the accurate categorisation of cause of death. Preliminary data on suicide from Police Scotland was also inconclusive. This made it difficult to identify suicide trends, but it was likely that the data would become more accurate over time as deaths were categorised more accurately.
2.7. It was noted that although there appeared to be a decline in self-harm admissions, this data was also unreliable due to health boards failing to submit their data to Public Health Scotland on time. During the pandemic, there had been a decline in unscheduled care contacts relating to self-harm which mirrored the general decline in all unscheduled care contacts. Data from NHS Lothian showed no change in self-harm presentations to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in January-July 2020 compared to the same months in 2019, whereas data from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on self-harm referrals to the Glasgow Psychiatric Liaison Service showed a continuously upward trend in 2020.  It was noted that callers to Samaritans were generally more anxious and distressed than before the pandemic.  It was noted that the data provided did not include presentations from CAMHS or Primary Care.  Prof. Platt advised Members that in future quarterly reports would be produced for NSPLG meetings, but would not be available until after the October meeting. Action 17.2

3. Action 3 – Campaign Update

3.1. Mr Watson reported that the new suicide prevention campaign United to Prevent Suicide was due to be launched on 10 September 2020.  He thanked those who attended the briefing session on 25 August, acknowledged that the work had been fast moving and invited anyone who needed a further update to contact the sponsors. Mr Watson gave an overview of ongoing work in the run up to the launch including the launch of a United to Prevent Suicide digital hub and further stakeholder sessions. He reported that 235 people had signed up to these sessions.  Delivery Leads had been working to ensure media deadlines were secured and TV/radio slots had been confirmed. The campaign would appear on TV from 1 October. Sessions with the Lived Experience Panel were planned to finesse the language of the TV script and the Minister for Mental Health had agreed to take part in a short film to promote the campaign. It was highlighted that Cllr Currie, COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care was also willing to take part in the film and Mr Watson would engage with his office to make arrangements (Action 17.3). It was highlighted that work would continue beyond the six week window of the campaign and work was underway to consider specific plans for children and young people.

4. Suicide Prevention Action Plan Evaluation

4.1. Prof. Platt presented a proposal for the evaluation of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan (SPAP) which involved two steps – first, undertaking an audit of the first two years of the current SPAP and then developing a suicide prevention strategic outcomes framework to inform a future suicide prevention strategy.
4.2. Prof. Platt reported that the original intent of producing an evaluability assessment had not proved possible due to the difficulty of mapping the disparate nature of the actions and related outputs and outcomes.  Additionally, not all actions had been clearly defined or implementation begun prior to COVID-19 and some actions had been paused due to the pandemic. He proposed that an audit of the current actions would provide a summary of what had been undertaken, the outputs produced and service uptake/responses where appropriate.  To achieve this Delivery Leads would be asked to complete a template by mid to end October 2020 and responses would be collated for sharing with the Group by the end of November 2020. Action 17.4
4.3. The second part of Prof. Platt’s proposal involved developing a strategic outcomes framework to inform the new ten year suicide prevention strategy recommended by the Group and accepted for development by the Scottish Government and COSLA. The framework would be designed to avoid the issues encountered with evaluating the current Action Plan and, depending on the content of the new strategy, could be based on five overarching themes. Work would start at the end of October with the aim of submitting a draft/specimen strategic outcomes framework to the Group by the end of January 2021. To achieve this, commitment would be required from Sponsors, Delivery Leads, the Programme Manager and other key stakeholders.
4.4. The Chair thanked Prof. Platt, Ms Fiona Myers and Ms Shirley Windsor for their work and the thought put into this proposal  and there followed a discussion around the proposal.  It was noted that Action 8 – considering the needs of children and young people – was not in itself an outcome, but it was acknowledged that lots of work was ongoing around children and young people that needed to be captured in the Action Plan audit. It was noted that the Integrated Motivational-Volitional (IMV) Model could be connected with the framework and could be used as a translational tool to help address themes.  Prof. O’Connor offered to work with Prof. Platt to take this forward. (Action 17.5)  It was noted that the strategic outcomes framework would focus at national level and should be developed in conjunction with Scottish Government and COSLA.  It was noted that thought should be given on how to translate and tailor this to the local level.
4.5. The Group unanimously supported the proposals noting that there was significant learning to be taken from the current Action Plan. The Chair noted the ambitious timescales involved and highlighted the commitment required from everyone to ensure that the consultation was meaningful.  Mr Curran offered the support of the Policy Team as a resource for both pieces of work and to discuss with Prof Platt outside the meeting. Action 17.6

5. NSPLG Annual Report 2020

5.1. Mr Curran gave an update on production of the Group’s 2020 Annual Report.  A timeline was circulated to the Group noting key deadlines for meeting the publication date of 30 September.  He noted that the report would include an update on progress made on each SPAP action from the Delivery Leads; an update on progress made on the eleven recommendations made in the 2019 annual report, all of which had been accepted by the Scottish Government and COSLA; and a summary of the COVID-19 Statement, including the four priorities and strategy recommended to and accepted by the Scottish Government and COSLA. Once published the Annual Report would be shared with stakeholders and published on the Scottish Government website.

6. Member and Policy Updates

6.1. The Chair invited Members to share any updates on ongoing work.  Ms Drouet shared a short film made by the son of a member of the Lived Experience Panel.  Conversations were ongoing, and it was hoped that the video could be circulated in secondary schools for senior pupils, colleges and universities to raise awareness around suicide prevention among young people.  Ms Cackett highlighted a Samaritans event to launch new industry guidelines on managing self-harm and suicide online which was due to take place on Suicide Prevention day.  Mr Grierson highlighted the importance of connecting with the Action 6 Delivery Lead on this issue (Action 17.7).  Ms O’Donnell reported that Ms Drouet recently spoke to great effect at the Children and Young People Mental Health Board, highlighting links with the Group.  She also noted that Ms Haylis Smith had returned to COSLA and was picking up again her work as Delivery Lead for Actions 1 and 10.  Dr Smith raised the issue of suicide clusters in South Glasgow and requested assistance from the Group on addressing this.  Members responded by offering connections through their own networks.  Dr Smith thanked the Members noting the opportunity for community engagement and would connect with them to discuss further.

7. Close and Date of Next Meeting

7.1. The Chair thanked Members for their contributions and proposed the following agenda items for the next meeting, due to take place by videoconference at 10.30am on Wed 14 October 2020: an Action 5 workshop; an update on the COVID Statement priorities; dates for the Group’s meetings in 2021 and an update on Action 7. 

Summary of Actions from the NSPLG Meeting held on 2 September 2020

17.1    Members to send any further comments on the June minutes to the secretariat.

17.2    Prof Platt to produce updated reports on real time data, bringing the first one to the December meeting.

17.3    Mr Watson to engage with Cllr Currie regarding the suicide prevention campaign video.

17.4    Mr Grierson to inform Delivery Leads of timescales for an audit of the work under the Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

17.5    Prof O’Connor to work with Prof Platt on connecting the outcomes framework with the IMV Model.

17.6    Mr Curran to discuss support for work on evaluability with Prof Platt.

17.7    Mr Grierson to ensure the Action 6 Delivery Lead is aware of the Samaritans online content event.

Future NSPLG 2020 meeting dates:

14 October 2020

2 December 2020

Back to top