New figures on healthcare workers' suicides should be treated with caution

10 September 2021
What was claimed

More than 60 frontline UK healthcare workers took their own life at the beginning of the pandemic.

Our verdict

This data was on deaths by suicide registered in England and Wales in the first half of 2020, we don’t know how many happened in that year.. The majority of all deaths by suicides registered in the first half of 2020 actually happened before the year began.

“More than 60 frontline UK healthcare workers took their own life at the beginning of the pandemic.”

The i newspaper has reported new data claiming to show that 64 frontline healthcare workers died by suicide at the beginning of the pandemic.

The data is sourced to the Laura Hyde Foundation, a charity which works to improve mental health support for clinical staff.

Following a request from Full Fact the Foundation clarified that the data represents the number of suicides of healthcare professionals registered, not those which occurred, in the first six months of 2020 in England and Wales.

The i has subsequently corrected its article to say 64 deaths were registered as suicides in that time.

In England and Wales, there is often a long gap between a suicide occurring and being registered as all suspected suicides are investigated by a coroner, in a process which typically takes around five to six months.

Because of this, the majority of all deaths by suicide which were registered in the first half of 2020 actually happened before 2020 began.

Referring to data on all suicides during the first half of 2020, not just those of healthcare professionals, the Office for National Statistics wrote: “Of the 2,107 suicides registered in England between January and June of 2020, less than a quarter of these had a date of death that was also in 2020.”

Researchers from the University of Manchester have said that based on early findings there appears to have been no increase in suicides during the five months after the first national lockdown, using real-time data on suspected suicides rather than death registrations. 

They do say this is the general trend which may differ amongst specific groups, so it may not be true of healthcare workers specifically. 

And whatever the trends in the number of suicides among healthcare workers, that isn’t to deny that the pandemic may have had a negative mental health impact on healthcare workers.

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Correction 17 September 2021

A sentence was amended to clarify that the delay in death registration applies to England and Wales.

Update 1 October 2021

We clarified the wording of the headline to make clear it referred to new data

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