Background. A randomised controlled trial of day treatment with community care for patients with schizophrenic and affective disorders, referred for in-patient psychiatric treatment, was conducted to evaluate patterns of treatment and the course of illness with its psychosocial consequences over a period of two years.
Method. Seventy patients, of whom 34 had affective and 36 had schizophrenic disorder, were assigned to the experimental condition (day treatment with ambulatory and domiciliary care), and 33 patients, of whom 16 had affective and 17 had schizophrenic disorder, were assigned to the control condition of standard clinical care.
Results. Day treatment with community care was feasible for 40.6% of the affective patients and 33.3% of the schizophrenic patients. The direct treatment costs of both disorders, based on numbers of in- and day-patient days and out-patient contacts over two years, appeared more or less the same. Patients benefited equally from day treatment as from in-patient treatment, although there were some gains in self-care and in functioning in the household among experimentals. Although schizophrenics were socioeconomically worse off, and also suffered from more (severe) symptoms and social disabilities than the affective patients at entry into the study, they were similar at two years. This finding is unexpected, compared with other follow-up studies. Extra cost for patients and families were not observed. Patients and their families in the experimental condition were significantly more satisfied with the treatment. Experimental patients spent much more time at home during admission, remained much less time in secluded wards, and were more compliant with treatment.
Conclusions. Day treatment could be considered a cost-effective alternative to in-patient treatment.