Objective: This paper reports findings from a multicentre service evaluation project conducted in acute psychiatric inpatient units in NSW, Australia. Overall rates of aggression, absconding and early readmission are reported, as well as length-of-stay profiles and associations between these outcomes and selected sociodemographic and clinical characteristics routinely collected by health services. Method: Data from the 11 participating units were collected for a 12 month period from multiple sources, including electronic medical records, routine clinical modules, incident forms, and shift based project-specific logs. For the current analyses, two admission-level datasets were used, comprising aggregated patient-level events (n=3242 admissions) and basic sociodemographic, clinical, admission and discharge information (n=5546 admissions by 3877 patients). Results: The participating units were under considerable strain: 23.3% of admissions were high acuity; 60.4% had previous hospital stays; 47.6% were involuntary; 25-30% involved adverse incidents; bed occupancy averaged 88.4%; median length of stay was 8 days (mean=14.59 days); and 17.4% had a subsequent early readmission. Reportable aggressive incidents (11.2% of admissions) were intermittent (averaging 0.55 incidents per month per occupied bed) and associated with younger age, personality disorder, less serious aggression, longer periods of hospitalization, and subsequent early readmission. Less serious aggressive incidents (15.0% of admissions) were maximal in the first 24 h (averaging 3.73 incidents per month per occupied bed) and associated with younger age, involuntary status, bipolar and personality disorders, the absence of depression, and longer hospital stays. Absconding (15.7% of admissions) peaked in the second week following admission and was associated with drug and alcohol disorder, younger age, and longer periods of hospitalization. Conclusions: By examining relationships between a core set of risk factors and multiple short-term outcomes, we were able to identify several important patterns, which were suggestive of the need for a multi-level approach to intervention, shifting from a risk management focus during the early phase of hospitalization to a more targeted, therapeutic approach during the later phase. But the latter approach may not be achievable under current circumstances with existing resources.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 42, Issue 4, p. 267-282