FOI REF: FOI/2023/4785

You asked

I would like to know the number of deaths by suicide you have recorded for doctors for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

We said

Thank you for your enquiry.

We hold the following analysis: Suicide by occupation, England and Wales, 2011 to 2021 registrations.

Data on occupation is coded using the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC 2010). In all, there are 9 major groups of occupations (for example, skilled trades occupations); 25 sub-major groups (for example, skilled construction and building trades); 90 minor groups (for example, building finishing trades); and more than 350 individual occupations (for example, painters and decorators).

Full lists of occupations used in the analysis are reported in the accompanying data tables, and descriptions of these can be found in ONS Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Hierarchy. The report is structured so that it describes larger categories of occupations before moving on to describe risk in specific occupations.

The occupational codes used are:

  • 2211 Medical Practitioner

  • 2212 Psychologists

However, there are more healthcare related codes available in table 4 of the dataset. Individual occupation data can be found in table 4 of the dataset.

The majority of suicides require an inquest, where a coroner investigates the death. The amount of time it takes to hold an inquest causes a lag between the date of death and the date of death registration, referred to as a registration delay. Registration delays for deaths caused by suicide tend to be 5 to 6 months on average.

We do produce provisional suicide data for England on a quarterly basis, with the latest update including deaths that have been registered from July to September 2022. This is for deaths registered in 2022, and due to the registration delay described above, most of these deaths would have occurred in 2021

Suicide by occupation 2022 will be published in September 2023 to allow the inclusion of late registrations. More information on late registrations is available in our Suicide rates in the UK QMI.

As such, this information is considered exempt under Section 22(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, whereby information is exempt from release if there is a view to publish the information in the future. Furthermore, as a central government department and producer of official statistics, we need to have the freedom to be able to determine our own publication timetables. This is to allow us to deal with the necessary preparation, administration, and context of publications. It would be unreasonable to consider disclosure when to do so would undermine our functions.

This exemption is subject to a public interest test.

We recognise the desirability of information being freely available and this is considered by ONS when publication schedules are set in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. The need for timely data must be balanced against the practicalities of applying statistical skill and judgement to produce the high quality, assured data needed to inform decision-making. If this balance is incorrectly applied, then we run the risk of decisions being based on inaccurate data which is arguably not in the public interest.  This will have an impact on public trust in official statistics in a time when accuracy of official statistics is more important to the public than ever before.

If you would like to discuss your request further, please contact