In a study of a population over 13 months, ratings were made from medical records of adults who were admitted to short-stay, non-secure (acute) psychiatric beds. Of 197 patients, 126 fulfilled DSM-IV criteria for specified psychoses; 57 of the 71 remaining non-psychotic patients had a history of repeated self-harm, or threats of self-harm, and/or a substance-related disorder. Both these behaviours can be a manifestation of, and be associated with, personality disorder. It was considered that personality disorder made an important contribution to the psychopathology in the non-psychotic patients. The findings suggest a need to evaluate the alternative to in-patient care in a standard acute unit for such patients.