Objectives: In an era of cost containment in the health services, it is important to endeavour to manage existing resources in the optimum way. This study examines admissions to an acute psychiatric unit in a general hospital in order to identify factors that characterise these admissions, which in turn may suggest appropriate interventions.
Methods: This was a retrospective casenote review of 105 consecutive admissions. Demographic information and clinical data concerning this admission and service contact in the preceding year was collected. Chi-squared tests were used to compare patients who were admitted during normal working hours with those admitted after 5pm and at weekends. Patients whose length of stay exceeded four weeks were compared with those who had a shorter admission.
Results: Eventually 101 patients were included in the study; of these 46.5% of admissions occurred during normal working hours. Admissions outside this time were more likely to be under 45 years (χ2 = 4.05, df = 1, p <0.05) and to be diagnosed with a depressive illness or schizophrenia/psychosis (χ2 = 19.12, df = 3, p <0.05). These admissions were of shorter duration (χ2 = 4.45, df = 1, p <0.05) and had not been in contact with the community psychiatric nurse (CPN) in the preceding year (χ2 = 4.09, df = 1, p <0.05). Length of stay >4 weeks duration was more likely in single patients (χ2 = 9.68, df = 2, p <0.01), those living outside the more urban areas (χ2 = 4.04, df = 1, p <0.05) and those who had a diagnosis of a depressive illness or schizophrenia/psychosis (χ2 = 13.43, df = 3, p <0.01). Patients with a diagnosis of alcohol or substance abuse were spending significantly shorter periods in hospital.
Conclusions: Further development of day hospitals is necessary to provide alternatives to inpatient treatment and facilitate earlier discharge for patients living throughout the catchment area. Alternative methods of service delivery such as outreach programmes should be considered for subgroups of patients who are unable or unwilling to access traditional services. Introducing outpatient detoxification programmes would have a substantial impact on admission patterns in the unit.