Data on effectiveness of acute day hospital treatment for psychiatric illness are inconsistent.
To establish the effectiveness and costs of care in a day hospital providing acute treatment exclusively.
In a randomised controlled trial, 206 voluntarily admitted patients were allocated to either day hospital treatment or conventional wards. Psychopathology, treatment satisfaction and subjective quality of life at discharge, 3 months and 12 months after discharge, readmissions to acute psychiatric treatment within 3 and 12 months, and costs in the index treatment period were taken as outcome criteria.
Day hospital patients showed significantly more favourable changes in psychopathology at discharge but not at follow-up. They also reported higher treatment satisfaction at discharge and after 3 months, but not after 12 months. There were no significant differences in subjective quality of life or in readmissions during follow-up. Mean total support costs were higher for the day hospital group.
Day hospital treatment for voluntary psychiatric patients in an inner-city area appears more effective in terms of reducing psychopathology in the short term and generates greater patient satisfaction than conventional in-patient care, but may be more costly.