We present a descriptive study discussing the reasons why patients remained as in-patients within the psychiatric unit over the Christmas period. In over 50% of cases continuation of in-patient stay was necessitated by the severity of mental illness. However, a significant minority of patients were unable to leave because of either poor family support or reduced input from the community mental health services. There was some evidence of Christmas good will influencing admission policy with a significantly greater number of patients admitted with alcohol problems over the week before Christmas all of whom were lonely and expressed a preference to be in hospital.
A more long term problem was also evident as an important minority of patients' hospital stay was unnecessarily prolonged because of unavailability of suitable community placements.