Identifying the impact on and support needs of NHS staff following a colleague's suicide: A study to inform postvention guidance

A multidisciplinary team of researchers in clinical settings, academia and the charity sector as well as front-line medical staff have developed this project.


Between 2016 and 2019, the latest year in which data are available, an average of 10.6 people died by suicide for every 100,000 people in England and Wales; 23,687 people in total. Amongst health professionals, the suicide rate is 24% higher than the national average, largely explained by the increased risk of suicide of female nurses, male paramedics and female doctors. Suicide amongst female nurses is four times higher than the national average. Those affected by suicide are at greater risk of mental ill health and suicide attempt themselves.

Past research shows that if people affected by suicide receive support early on, it can help them come to terms with their loss and reduce the risk of further mental health problems and suicide. This is called postvention. It is therefore important that NHS staff receive the best support at the right time.

The full impact of experiencing a suicide on staff who work in health settings is unknown and there is currently no postvention guidance or benchmark standard to assist NHS organisations or managers to support staff. Our research will address the gap in knowledge by using the experiences of staff to build a better understanding of postvention need.

The NHS is a unique place to work that requires distinct, evidence-based solutions to the needs of its staff. This study will seek to understand the impact on, and support needs of, NHS staff following a colleague’s suicide. This research is being conducted by a multidisciplinary team who include NHS staff who have been impacted by the suicide of a friend or colleague.

If you are interested in taking part, contact either of the study researchers: Johanna Spiers ( or Hilary Causer (

If you have any questions about this research, please contact the Chief Investigator, Ruth Riley (

Aim of the project

To understand the impact of a colleague’s suicide on NHS staff and their support needs, in order to inform postvention guidance.


  1. To undertake an integrative review of suicide impact and postvention interventions in other settings.
  2. To explore the impact of colleague suicide on staff wellbeing and grief reactions to such an event.
  3. To explore staff views about risk factors, which may have contributed to the suicide of their NHS colleague and warning signs the individual may have displayed.
  4. To identify what helps and/or hinders bereaved colleagues to seek support, to characterise supportive work cultures, and to identify staff preferences for future support.
  5. To explore how managers respond to and support their employees and colleagues following a death by suicide, and to identify current postvention activity.
  6. To use the findings to:
    1. Develop evidence-based postvention guidance for NHS organisations and managers to support and respond appropriately and effectively to bereaved or affected employees.
    2. Apply for further funding to develop and evaluate the appropriateness and effectiveness of an empirically-informed postvention support package for use across the NHS.


We will conduct semi-structured interviews with NHS staff and managers impacted by the suicide of their colleague. We will explore the views of a range of staff working in different settings, including hospitals, ambulance service and General Practice.

This project was informed in collaboration with Junior Doctors, Paramedics and Nurses with experience of suicide bereavement.



Guidance document 

Postvention guidance: Supporting NHS staff after the death by suicide of a colleague (PDF)


The Impact of Colleague Suicide and the Current State of Postvention Guidance for Affected Co-Workers: A Critical Integrative Review

Riley, R., & Causer, H. (2023). Why do NHS staff need suicide prevention? A call to leaders to implement new evidence-based guidanceNational Health Executive Magazine. 36-39. National Health Executive : September / October 23  

Spiers, J. (2023). Supporting colleagues after suicide. Key Worker, Issue 1, 27-28. Key Worker Magazine - Issue 1 (September 2023) by Key Worker Magazine - Issuu  

Causer, H., Spiers, J., Chew-Graham, C. A., Efstathiou, N., Gopfert, A., Grayling, K., Maben, J., van Hove, M., & Riley, R. (2024). Filling in the gaps: A grounded theory of the experiences and needs of healthcare staff following a colleague death by suicide in the UK. Death Studies. 

Causer, H., Spiers, J., & Riley, R. (2024). A Method for Synthesizing Qualitative Data Sources in the Co-Production of Postvention Guidelines for the NHS: A Worked Example. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 23.

Johanna Spiers, Hilary CauserNikos Efstathiou, Carolyn A. Chew-Graham, Anya Gopfert, Kathryn Grayling, Jill Maben,  Maria van Hove & Ruth Riley (2024) Negotiating the postvention situation: A grounded theory of NHS staff experiences when supporting their coworkers following a colleague’s suicide, Death Studies.

Executive summary 

Postvention guidance Supporting NHS staff after the death by suicide of a colleague: Executive Summary (PDF)

Information for families and participants

Information for bereaved relatives of NHS staff who have died by suicide

Bereavement can be the most distressing experience we will ever face and to lose someone who has taken their own life is unbelievably tough. That is why we are conducting this study that focusses on the impact on NHS staff when a colleague takes their own life, as we want to ensure that NHS staff receive the support they need. 

Rest assured that, throughout the study, we will not collect any personal or identifiable information about NHS staff members who have taken their own life, and information provided by participants in the study will remain strictly confidential.

If you want more information about the study and what is involved, please refer to the Participant Information Leaflet on this webpage. This also includes contact details of organisations which provide support to NHS staff.

 Alternatively, if you want to speak to someone about the study, please do not hesitate to contact the Chief Investigator, Ruth Riley (

Information for participants

Participant information leaflet (docx)

Research themes

Find out more about our research at Surrey: