Bridge drama prompts fresh calls for action

By <b>Harriet Ernstsons Friday 28 February 2014 Updated: 03/03 14:57

A MAN threatened to jump off a Redditch bridge just weeks after action was ruled out because it was claimed there was not enough evidence of a problem.

Pressure is mounting on the county council's health and well-being board to reverse its decision following the latest incident on the Bromsgrove Highway bridge on Saturday (February 22).

Police were called about 2pm and spent two hours talking down the man, in his 40s, who afterwards was taken to the Alexandra Hospital by ambulance.

It was decided in January the situation on the bridge would only be monitored because a ‘possible cluster of suicide attempts and suicides’ was ‘no longer evident’, despite police and community safety chiefs calling for something to be done.

But figures seen by the Standard show there were a total of four threats at the same location between November 2012 and the end of January this year. It means since 2006 there have been six deaths, five attempts and 37 threats - on average someone attempting to take their own life there every eight weeks.

Coun Rebecca Blake, responsible for community safety on the borough council, demanded the county council 'face up to the evidence' and take action.

"Will the recent threat make them take their heads out of the sand and take responsibility or are they still prepared to wait for another loss of life and the repercussions for the potential victims using the highway?"

The county council's health overview and scrutiny committee has also agreed to look at how the decision could be reviewed.

Coun Graham Vickery, who sits on the committee and represents the bridge area of Redditch North, added: "I'm furious the line the county council is taking is that of least expenditure and failing to recognise the seriousness of this problem. It is the tallest bridge in the borough, it's a thoroughfare and the danger to innocent parties on the road beneath let alone the effect on the families involved is incalculable."

Coun Marcus Hart, responsible for health and well-being on the council, said a review of the situation was scheduled within the next 12 months but may be sooner if there was 'evidence of an emerging situation', adding they had only been made aware of one of the four incidents between November 2012 and January 2014.

"The Worcestershire Mental Well-being and Suicide Prevention Plan, which has been approved by the Health and Wellbeing board, focuses on prevention and support for people who are experiencing mental health problems," he said.

"However it has recognised some additional concerns regarding local bridges and has officially requested ongoing monitoring of attempted suicides and actual suicides across the county and at the specific locations.

"We will also be setting up new lines of data reporting through the group."

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