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Will the new UK government change our approach to risk?

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 21 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3890
  1. Alys Cole-King, consultant liaison psychiatrist1,
  2. Peter Leppina, visiting professor2, consultant psychiatrist and associate medical director1
  1. 1Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board, north Wales
  2. 2Glyndwr University, Wrexham
  1. Correspondence to: A Cole-King alys.cole-king{at}

    Imagine it is 3 am and your patient is at home, wide awake, and being tormented by suicidal thoughts. What is likely to stop them ending their life and make them seek help: the fact that they have undergone a complex, lengthy risk assessment or a simple “staying safe plan” created with an empathic and trusted practitioner, tailored to their own particular circumstances?

    Assessing and managing risk is a major preoccupation in most areas of public policy, including environmental protection, transport, law and order, defence, and of course health. In mental health care the need for carefully considered responses to the risk of suicide was given sharp focus by the December 2008 House of Lords ruling that under the European Convention on Human Rights healthcare providers have a particular duty to protect mentally ill patients who are at risk of suicide from harming themselves.1 The possibility of being accused of professional misconduct or the fear of litigation if a patient goes on to complete a suicide can be a powerful disincentive for clinicians to acknowledge that a patient is a suicide risk and thus to try …

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