Working with police and health services

Samaritans and the Rail Industry Suicide Prevention Programme, is not restricted to activity on the rail network. The Programme recognises the need to work with local communities and local services to help support those at risk. Multi-agency working, particularly with the British Transport Police and health services is essential for this.

Who are the British Transport Police?

The British Transport Police (BTP) is the national police force for the railways. They have two joint health and policing teams, made up of NHS Psychiatric nurses, BTP officers and staff and their job is to deal with suicide incidents that occur across the rail network.

The role of the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (SPMH) teams is to provide advice and guidance to officers while they are supporting people on the network, and to follow up all cases. As part of case follow up, in some cases SPMH teams work with police and health teams to provide additional support in the form of a Suicide Prevention Plan (SPP).

In 2014/15 the SPMH teams dealt with 1,156 people on SPPs across the whole rail network (including the London Underground), with less than 1% of those going on to take their own lives. This clearly demonstrates the tremendous work of the SPMH teams and BTP officers, however every suicide is a tragedy and BTP continue to work to reduce this figure to zero.


How are BTP and Samaritans working together?

The BTP come into contact with thousands of vulnerable people each year who are in need of someone to talk to. Samaritans and BTP have been trialling a referral scheme in North London that provides BTP officers with a tool to offer support to people, particularly in those instances where they don’t have grounds to pass them over to mental health services.

The process works by the BTP officer asking the person in need whether they would like to receive a call from Samaritans later in the day or week. If the person agrees, the officer calls Samaritans helpline and arranges for a volunteer to call the person back at a designated time. This is a useful tool for officers who have concerns about someone and know they won’t be able to see their GPs immediately. 

This trial has been very successful and plans are being made for it to be rolled out to BTP officers across the rail network.


How are Samaritans engaging health services?

Local Samaritans branches have also been developing partnership links with community health and mental health services, particularly around priority locations, promoting referrals to Samaritans’ emotional support services.

Health services have also been invited to multi-agency working groups to assist with issues at high risk locations, and they have also been engaged through suicide prevention groups. The aim for this activity is to look at raising awareness of rail suicide issues, looking at whether procedural improvements can be made and introducing Samaritans third party referral processes and links with local Samaritans branches.

This work overlaps with Samaritans’ Partnerships team as well as the ongoing efforts of branches to support local communities. The rail suicide prevention programme targets services close to high risk rail locations, the partnerships team focus on suicide by any means and areas in greatest need.