Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 4(2) December 2000 : 68-68.doi:10.12927/hcq..16701

Relevant Research: Are Acute-Care Psychiatric Beds Being Used Effectively?


Acute-care beds in psychiatric wards are being overused without any apparent benefit to patients, since longer stays don't seem to make them any better than shorter stays, a pilot study by the Health Services Utilization and Research Commission says.
The study, which looked at acute-care psychiatric bed use in three Saskatchewan health districts, found significant non-acute use of their psychiatric units, however "Longer hospital stays do not appear to produce better patient outcomes, nor do shorter stays appear to be associated with poorer outcomes…[or] increased readmission rates."

Laurie Thompson, executive director of the commission, said they do not want to overemphasize the pilot study's results because of its small sample size, but felt the results important enough to warrant publishing all the same.

The study recommends that hospitals continue the trend to treating psychiatric patients both in the community and also as inpatients in non-acute settings - and to look at developing those alternate settings if they don't have them or removing whatever barriers are keeping people from using them where they do exist.

The report found little difference in long-stay and short-stay patients' use of community services, but says planning for care after discharge should start at admission, to ensure that appropriate care is in place when the patient is ready for discharge.

The paper "Psychiatric Hospitalizations and Subsequent Use of Community Services: A Pilot Study," is available on the web at

Relevant Research is prepared by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. For more information please contact the Foundation at


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