Locating psychiatric wards in general hospitals has long been seen in many countries as a key element in the reform of services to promote community integration of the mentally ill. In the UK, however, this is no longer a policy priority, and the recent trend has been towards small freestanding inpatient units, located either within the communities they serve, or on general hospital sites, but separate from the main building. Whether locating the psychiatric wards in the general hospital is essential to psychiatric reform has been little discussed, and we can find no relevant evidence.
Perceived strengths of general hospital psychiatric wards are in normalisation of mental health problems, accessibility to local communities, better availability of physical health care resources, and integration of psychiatry with the rest of the medical profession, which may faclilitate recruitment. However, difficulties seem to have been encountered in establishing well-designed psychiatric wards with access to open space in general hospitals. Also, physical proximity may not be enough to achieve the desired reduction in stigma, and complaints from the general hospital may sometimes result in undue restrictions on psychiatric ward patients. There are strong arguments both for and against locating psychiatric wards in general hospitals: an empirical evidence base would be helpful to inform important decisions about the best setting for wards.
Declaration of Interest: None.