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Self-harm by intentional poisoning or self-injury is a very common reason for presentation to hospital, especially in young people. It is often repeated and carries a significant risk of future suicide. Self-harm was included as a key issue in England’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy for the first time this year. Until now very little information has been available on the costs of hospital care for people who self-harm.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics have linked information from a register of people presenting to a large general hospital following self-harm to financial records in order to estimate the economic costs of their medical and psychiatric care while in hospital. In a report published in The Lancet Psychiatry they showed that the average cost for each episode of self-harm was £809, with higher costs for adolescents than adults. They estimated that if such costs apply to all self-harm episodes presenting to hospitals in England the overall cost to the NHS amounts to £162 million each year.