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In a wide-ranging interview with the Medical Independent (MI), the Director of the National Office for Suicide Prevention Mr Gerry Raleigh said the piloted system had been deemed a success and would be expanded beyond its current nine geographical sites.
“SCAN is where a mental health specialist nurse is available to GPs to go down to a GP surgery and complete a full bio-psychosocial assessment of a patient, where the GP has some concerns,” Mr Raleigh explained.
“It was piloted five years ago in Wexford and evaluated really strongly. Last year, we rolled it out in eight additional sites across the country. And a number of additional sites will be developed over the next number of months. It is a really strong service and helps the GP to refer that person on to the appropriate service.”
The service gives GPs direct access to the SCAN system, allowing for fast referral and an immediate discussion of the referred case.
In a separate interview, the former Inspector of Mental Health Services at the Mental Health Commission told MI he is concerned that mental health professionals are under significant pressure in relation to suicide assessments.
In recent years, a huge degree of responsibility for the prevention of suicide has fallen on mental health professionals. Dr Patrick Devitt believes that there is too much expectation over the possibility of success with risk assessments.
“Psychiatrists have become paralysed by it now,” warned Dr Devitt. “There is a lot of pressure on doctors to make a decision. I think what psychiatrists should be saying is, ‘we don’t really know and we can’t predict an individual case’. That is especially within a clinical time frame of, say, a month of whether this person or that person is going to kill themselves. All we can say is that they statistically have a higher rate of dying by suicide in maybe 10 years or maybe five years. But we can’t tell.”
See feature ‘Suicide: the bigger picture’