Aims: To compare the clinical characteristics of patients who absconded and those who did not abscond; and to show the types of absconding behaviour in a low secure challenging behaviour mental health unit.
Method: A retrospective case control study was conducted. Details of the absconding incidents were collected from an electronic incident database. Clinical predictors of patients who absconded (cases) and those who did not (controls) were compared. Statistical analysis was performed to determine statistical significance of the observed differences.
Results: 80 admissions resulted from 78 patients during a period of 6½ years. 22% of the inpatients absconded from the unit. 84% of the incidents occurred while patients were utilising their unescorted leave. Only one patient escaped from the building. No serious incidents resulted from any of the abscondings. On univariate analysis, the following predictors were more likely to be statistically associated with patients who absconded from the unit: a history of absconding behaviour and a history of substance misuse or dependence. A history of non-compliance with treatment, a history of sexually inappropriate behaviour and a history of childhood conduct problems showed a trend towards statistical significance.
Conclusion: The clinical characteristics of patients who abscond from low secure units show similarities with those who abscond from other psychiatric inpatient settings.
Declaration of interests: None.