National guidelines for the short-term management of self-harm are aimed at healthcare professionals who may be involved in the care of people who have self-harmed. However, evidence from small-scale studies globally suggest there is a lack of awareness of such guidelines among some groups of healthcare professionals. For the first time in a large representative sample of patient-facing healthcare professionals, we aimed to identify: (a) which healthcare professionals are aware of guidelines for the management of self-harm; (b) the perceived availability of training; (c) the use of risk screening tools; and (d) the extent to which healthcare professionals implement guidelines for the management of self-harm.
1020 UK healthcare professionals completed a cross-sectional survey online.
85.6% (873/1020) of the sample had heard of the national guidelines, but only 24.3% (248/1020) knew “a fair amount” or more about them. Of the respondents who had previously encountered a patient who had self-harmed or was at risk of repeat self-harm, the guidelines were implemented in fewer than 50% (M = 43.89%, SD = 38.79) of encounters. 31% (312/1020) of the sample had received training in managing self-harm and, contrary to guidelines, 2.25% (23/1020) of the sample had used self-harm risk screening tools.
Our findings highlight a need to improve knowledge of self-harm management guidelines, and identifies professional groups where awareness and knowledge is currently low. Further work is required to develop interventions to change healthcare professional practice with respect to the implementation of self-harm management guidelines.