NHS Direct is increasingly used as a first source of health advice and information, receiving an average of 600 000 calls per month. We performed an audit of suicides in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight over a 2-year period to determine the characteristics of those who died by suicide and had been in recent contact with NHS Direct.
Of 278 suicides resident in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, 30 (10.8%) had contacted NHS Direct in the preceding year. Of the 30 callers within the preceding year, 12 (40%) made multiple calls, 7 (23%) called within 2 weeks of death, 9 (30%) callers reported mental health problems, 17 (57%) reported physical problems, and 4 (13%) just requested information. Eighteen (60%) calls resulted in urgent medical referral, 17 to a general practitioner and 1 to accident and emergency.
The high incidence of physical, often pain-related, problems merits further investigation.
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