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Previous studies in individual countries have identified inconsistent predictors of length of stay (LoS) in psychiatric inpatient units. This may reflect methodological inconsistencies across studies or true differences of predictors. In this study we assessed predictors of LoS in five European countries and explored whether their effect varies across countries.
Prospective cohort study. All patients admitted over 14 months to 57 psychiatric inpatient units in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Poland and United Kingdom were screened. Putative predictors were collected from medical records and in face-to-face interviews and tested for their association with LoS.
Average LoS varied from 17.9 days in Italy to 55.1 days in Belgium. In the overall sample being homeless, receiving benefits, social isolation, diagnosis of psychosis, greater symptom severity, substance use, history of previous admission and being involuntarily admitted predicted longer LoS. Several predictors showed significant interaction effects with countries in predicting LoS. One variable, homelessness, predicted a different LoS even in opposite directions, whilst for other predictors the direction of the association was the same, but the strength of the association with LoS varied across countries.
The same patient characteristics have a different impact on LoS in different contexts. Thus, although some predictor variables related to clinical severity and social dysfunction appear of generalisable relevance, national studies on LoS are required to understand the complex influence of different patient characteristics on clinical practice in the given contexts.
In Europe, at discharge from a psychiatric hospital, patients with severe mental illness may be exposed to one of two main care approaches: personal continuity, where one clinician is responsible for in- and outpatient care, and specialisation, where various clinicians are. Such exposure is decided through patient-clinician agreement or at the organisational level, depending on the country’s health system. Since personal continuity would be more suitable for patients with complex psychosocial needs, the aim of this study was to identify predictors of patients’ exposure to care approaches in different European countries.
Data were collected on 7302 psychiatric hospitalised patients in 2015 in Germany, Poland, and Belgium (patient-level exposure); and in the UK and Italy (organisational-level exposure). At discharge, patients were exposed to one of the care approaches according to usual practice. Putative predictors of exposure at patients’ discharge were assessed in both groups of countries.
Socially disadvantaged patients were significantly more exposed to personal continuity. In all countries, the main predictor of exposure was the admission hospital, except in Germany, where having a diagnosis of psychosis and a higher education status were predictors of exposure to personal continuity. In the UK, hospitals practising personal continuity had a more socially disadvantaged patient population.
Even in countries where exposure is decided through patient-clinician agreement, it was the admission hospital, not patient characteristics, that predicted exposure to care approaches. Nevertheless, organisational decisions in hospitals tend to expose socially disadvantaged patients to personal continuity.
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