Partial hospitalization (PH) fulfills four different functions in the mental health care system. First it can be a continuation of full-time hospitalization (FH). Secondly it functions as a rehabilitation oriented day care facility for the chronically ill. Thirdly it can be an extension of an outpatient treatment for patients without any indication for FH. And lastly it can be an alternative to (sub)acute FH (Schene & Gersons, 1986). Of course a particular PH service can fulfill different functions at the same time. However, based on data from a nationwide survey in The Netherlands we found clear differences between PH services that were specialized in one of the four functions mentioned (Schene et al., 1988).
PH might be regarded as a real and useful alternative to FH, provided it adheres to the original inpatient treatment objectives and their related functions, without any loss of quality. It should accommodate the same, or at least a comparable, patient population. Only under those conditions can PH really replace FH.