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Council to monitor progress on reducing county's high suicide rate

Coun Peter Britcliffe, Chairman of the county council's Health Scrutiny Committee
Coun Peter Britcliffe, Chairman of the county council's Health Scrutiny Committee

Experts have been asked to report back within a year on the progress being made to reduce the number of suicides in Lancashire.

A special report must be presented to the county council’s health scrutiny steering group within six months.

Preston Councillor David Borrow

Preston Councillor David Borrow

A further monitoring report must be made to a meeting of the council’s full health scrutiny committee next December.

The call came after councillors were told Lancashire and South Cumbria has above the national average suicide rate with the fourth highest rate of all major authority areas.

Between 2013 and 2015 out of every 100,000 living in the county and South Cumbria 12 took their own lives.

Meanwhile Preston has the fourth highest rate and Blackpool the fifth highest suicide rates out of all unitary and district council areas.

Health scrutiny committee chairman County Coun Peter Britcliffe proposed a new four point plan, which included the demand for further updates, after the committee was briefed on suicide rates and prevention work in the county.

Councillors were reminded that within the county council area both Preston and Hyndburn have gained notoriety for their above average suicide rates.

District councils will now be asked to identify one councillor to act as a Champion for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. The Champions will join the Lancashire Suicide Prevention Partnership.

A special training session for county councillors and any district councillors wishing to attend will also be arranged on mental health awareness.

Coun Britcliffe said: “The proposals will take us forward and make us effective as a scrutiny committee.”

He had earlier highlighted the special need for Preston and Hyndburn to appoint the new Champions because of the “problems” they have.

But City Councillor David Borrow, who was representing Preston council at the meeting, told Coun Britcliffe: “Preston has done work in this area...I think you need to be a bit more careful in what you say.”

Coun Britcliffe said there was “absolutely no criticism whatsoever” of Preston or Hyndburn. He said: “In Preston I do know it’s linked with deprivation and I recognise the deprivation there is in Preston and in places like Hyndburn and Burnley.”

Last week the county council’s cabinet agreed to contribute £158,000 annually towards the preparation of a multi agency (STP) Sustainability and Transformation Partnership) Suicide Prevention Plan for Lancashire and South Cumbria. The county council has also produced a Suicide Prevention Plan.

.The Government has demanded all local authorities draw up suicide prevention strategies in a bid to reduce suicide figures by 10 per cent nationally by 2020.