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      The virtual institution: cross-sectional length of stay in general adult and forensic psychiatry beds

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          Length of stay in psychiatric hospitals interests health service planners, economists and clinicians. At a systems level it is preferable to study general adult and forensic psychiatric beds together since these are likely to be inter-dependent. We examined whether patients were placed according to specialist need or according to their cross-sectional length of stay.


          A one night census of all registered mental nursing home (RMNH) beds was carried out for a defined catchment area of 1.2 m population in north London in November 1999. This included all public sector psychiatric hospital beds, independent sector and forensic beds in and outside the catchment area. Cross-sectional length of stay was defined as time since the date of admission from the community. Log rank (Mantel-Cox) Chi squared was used to test for differences between groups and hierarchical logistic regression for statistical modelling.


          There were 1,085 occupied psychiatric beds. Cross-sectional LOS was greater than 365 days in 43.5%. Forensic beds had longer cross-sectional LOS than general beds. LOS increased with the level of therapeutic security from open through low, medium and high secure. Cross-sectional LOS was shorter for open hospital beds than community RMNH beds, shorter for informal patients than those detained under civil mental health law, and longest for forensic detentions. Longest cross-sectional LOS were for patients placed in RMNHs in the community, 10.7% of whom were ‘forensic’ as were 25.4% of low secure patients. Designated length of stay (acute, rehab/medium term and long term) was also associated with increasing cross-sectional LOS. In regression analysis only three variables contributed to a model of cross-sectional LOS, commissioning status (general or forensic), designated length of stay and designated level of therapeutic security.


          Studying cross-sectional LOS for whole systems (all psychiatric beds) is essential for operational health service management. At the time of this survey ‘forensic’ status was the main way of accessing long term high dependency places. This has been an organic development over time, a response to patient needs rather than the outcome of any specific policy or plan.

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          Therapeutic uses of security: mapping forensic mental health services by stratifying risk

           H. Kennedy (2002)
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            The DUNDRUM-1 structured professional judgment for triage to appropriate levels of therapeutic security: retrospective-cohort validation study

            Background The assessment of those presenting to prison in-reach and court diversion services and those referred for admission to mental health services is a triage decision, allocating the patient to the appropriate level of therapeutic security. This is a critical clinical decision. We set out to improve on unstructured clinical judgement. We collated qualitative information and devised an 11 item structured professional judgment instrument for this purpose then tested for validity. Methods All those assessed following screening over a three month period at a busy remand committals prison (n = 246) were rated in a retrospective cohort design blind to outcome. Similarly, all those admitted to a mental health service from the same prison in-reach service over an overlapping two year period were rated blind to outcome (n = 100). Results The 11 item scale had good internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = 0.95) and inter-rater reliability. The scale score did not correlate with the HCR-20 'historical' score. For the three month sample, the receiver operating characteristic area under the curve (AUC) for those admitted to hospital was 0.893 (95% confidence interval 0.843 to 0.943). For the two year sample, AUC distinguished at each level between those admitted to open wards, low secure units or a medium/high secure service. Open wards v low secure units AUC = 0.805 (95% CI 0.680 to 0.930); low secure v medium/high secure AUC = 0.866, (95% CI 0.784 to 0.949). Item to outcome correlations were significant for all 11 items. Conclusions The DUNDRUM-1 triage security scale and its items performed to criterion levels when tested against the real world outcome. This instrument can be used to ensure consistency in decision making when deciding who to admit to secure forensic hospitals. It can also be used to benchmark admission thresholds between services and jurisdictions. In this study we found some divergence between assessed need and actual placement. This provides fertile ground for future research as well as practical assistance in assessing unmet need, auditing case mix and planning care pathways.
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              Patterns of hospital admission for adult psychiatric illness in England: analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics data.

              The assessment and reporting of national patterns of psychiatric hospital admissions is important for strategic service development and planning. To investigate patterns of psychiatric hospital admissions of patients aged 16-64 years in England. We used the Department of Health's national Hospital Episode Statistics data on admissions to National Health Service hospitals in England between April 1999 and March 2000, to investigate patterns by region, gender, age and diagnosis. The annual admission rate for England was 3.2 per 1000 population. There were marked regional variations and rates were higher in males than in females. Depression and anxiety together were the most common (29.6%) reason for admission. Length of stay exceeded 90 days in 9.2% of admissions and 1 year in 0.9% (highest in London and for psychoses). Depression and anxiety together were the most frequent diagnoses leading to hospitalisation. There has been a reversal of the previously reported predominance of female admissions. Regional variations in activity and the significant numbers of patients remaining for long periods in'acute' inpatient care have important policy implications.

                Author and article information

                [ ]North London Forensic Mental Health Service, Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield, London, UK
                [ ]Edenfield Centre, Manchester, UK
                [ ]John Howard Centre, East London Foundation Trust, Hackney, E9 5TD UK
                [ ]National Forensic Mental Health Service, Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, Dublin 14, Ireland
                [ ]Department of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
                Int J Ment Health Syst
                Int J Ment Health Syst
                International Journal of Mental Health Systems
                BioMed Central (London )
                30 June 2015
                30 June 2015
                : 9
                26131018 4485346 17 10.1186/s13033-015-0017-7
                © Sharma et al. 2015

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                hospital, mental health, long term, forensic, psychiatry, length of stay


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