Government Even Has Targets on Suicides!
I was amazed the other day when I came across the news that
as well as having targets on reducing waiting lists and all the targets to do
with education which apparently it now needs "super-heads" to bring
about, it also has targets on reducing suicide rates. I read that the
governments aim is to cut the numbers of people committing suicide by 33
per cent. It appears that there is a league table of health authorities which,
among other things, measures how well they perform in reducing suicide rates,
as measured by the Quality and Performance indicators in the NHS.
How much further, I thought, can the government go in
denying its and societys responsibility for the social well-being and
welfare of human beings, and off-loading the responsibility onto some external
and long-suffering agency.
Professionals in all social fields seem to recognise this
in the health service, in education, in social services, you name it
but how to get the government to recognise their responsibility!
A couple of days ago, Tony Blair faced patients, medical
professionals, GPS, at St Thomas hospital and answered all their
complaints some of which were polite, some not so polite with the
refrain that "it all takes time", coupled with, "Im sure
youll agree, it is a problem of resources". His audience were not so
convinced that, given time and resources, the situation would much improve. As
time moves on and resources remain scarce, it will still be a matter of
"taking time" and a "problem of resources". I particularly
pricked my ears up when in talking about the problem of resources he mentioned
that, of course, the government first has a problem of meeting interest
payments on the national debt. The demand for a moratorium on the national
debt, I thought, is not just a slogan, a phrase!
The same thing is true of suicides. Not so much that it is a
matter of resources, though clearly the more resources invested in the mental
health services the better. But that society cannot be let off the hook. In a
news report, I saw this quote from Professor Tom Burns, who is clinical
director of general adult services at South West London and St Georges
Mental Health NHS Trust. "Suicide is clinically part of reality and
because the risk of suicide seems to be higher among mental health patients
there is clearly an important role for mental health services to play. But it
must be remembered that social factors are hugely important. The isolation
created by the social upheaval and rapid change that is an intrinsic part of
life in London increases the number of people committing suicide, and other
issues resulting from social isolation such as diet, alcohol/drug intake,
employment and education, need to be addressed." It was particularly
shocking to read that the highest rate of suicide seems to be among the over-85
age group, as elderly people are so prone to depression.
I seem to remember (I may be mistaken) that Tony Blair quite
recently repudiated what Margaret Thatcher said that "there is no such
thing as society, only individuals and family values". (Certainly Glenda
Jackson had repudiated this view in her campaign to be nominated as Labour
Party candidate for London mayor.) But if so, this must be just in words.
Otherwise, how could the Labour government put responsibility on others in
meeting "targets" for bringing down suicide rates?
South London Reader