Care for self-harmers fails to improve in decade, says Manchester study

Self-harming patients in hospitals are recieving almost the same care and treatment as they were 10 years ago, a Manchester University study revealed today.

Self-harmers are continuing to suffer due to insufficient psychosocial assessments with 40% of those attending hospital after an overdose or other self-injury not getting a specialist psychosocial assessment and are at risk of further harm.

The study also uncovered that the treatment patients received varied according to where they lived – suggesting a postcode lottery is still linked to getting the best care.

Amy a self-confessed self harmer who has suffered from depression since being bullied at school, said: “I have been to hospitals to be treated for injuries I did to myself.

“I was unsure what doctors would say when I was asked how I got my injuries, I told them it was me.

“After finding out my injuries were self inflicted they didn’t ask me any more questions and got on with their jobs.

“I have received help from the hospital they gave me some anti-depressants a year later but they don’t really make a difference. Self-harming is more than just taking a drug and forgetting about your pain.”

Research head Dr Jayne Cooper, from the University’s Centre for Suicide Prevention, said: “Hospitals varied in their management of self harm.

“The proportion of episodes that received a psychosocial assessment in line with national guidance varied from 22% in some hospitals to 88% in others.

“Overall we found the level of assessment had remained more or less static over the last ten years.”

The researchers looked at 6,442 people who were treated at 32 hospitals across the country with nearly 8,000 episodes of self harm over a three-month period.

This focused on how people were treated in hospital and how doctors would provide follow up treatment or analysis.

Evidence from the study shows there has been some improvements in the quality of care self harm patients receive since 2001.

However the study shows that despite the introduction of clinical guidelines medical assessments are not always followed up.

Professor Kapur, who is also an Honorary Consultant in Psychiatry at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, said: “We were surprised to find that despite national guidelines and policy initiatives, the management of self-harm in English hospitals is as variable as ever.

“This is important because the treatment patients get in hospital affects their outcome.”

Jenny, a former self harmer, said: “I used to self harm but after I nearly died slitting my wrists, doctors kept a close eye on me to help me get over it.

“The process was really long and really hard, I craved harming myself which sounds ridiculous now, but that is all I wanted to do.

“After a while, I began to want to do it less and with doctor’s help and counselling they helped me get better.

“It was a massive step to take and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my close family.”