Background: Low Secure Mental Health Services provide care for highly disturbed psychiatric patients. Little is known about the characteristics of such patients in the UK.
Aims: To perform the first UK wide survey developing a national data set of low secure services.
Method: A cross-sectional census day postal survey design was employed.
Results: A total of 307 units were identified this comprised 170 Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) housing 1,242 patients and 137 Low Secure Units (LSUs) treating 1,583 patients. The majority of patients in Low Secure care were male, white, single, unemployed and with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Complex needs, violence and forensic histories were common. There was a clear overrepresentation of black ethnic patients.
Conclusions: Patients in Low Secure Services shared many characteristics. However, there were important differences between PICU and LSU patients. The overrepresentation of black ethnic groups is concern that requires NHS action to ensure that the specific needs of black patients are met.