Legislation in 1978 led to the gradual replacement of mental hospitals in Italy with a full range of community-based services, including facilities for acute in-patient care.
To survey the main characteristics of Italian public and private in-patient facilities for acute psychiatric disorders.
Structured interviews were conducted with each facility's head psychiatrist in all Italian regions, with the exception of Sicily.
Overall, Italy (except Sicily) has atotal of 4108 public in-patient beds in 319 facilities, with 0.78 beds for every 10 000 inhabitants, and 4862 beds in 54 private in-patient facilities, with 0.94 beds per 10 000 inhabitants. In 2001 the rates of psychiatric admissions and admitted patients per 10 000 inhabitants were 26.7 and 17.8 respectively. In the same year the percentage of involuntary admissions was 12.9%, for atotal of 114 570 hospital days. Many in-patient facilities showed significant limitations in terms of architectural and logistic characteristics. Staffing showed a great variability among facilities.
The overall number of acute beds per 10 000 inhabitants is one of the lowest in Europe. The survey has provided evidence of two parallel systems of in-patient care, a public one and a private one, which are not fully interchangeable.