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Women in acute psychiatric units, their characteristics and needs: a review

  • Michaela Archer (a1), Yasmine Lau (a1) and Faisil Sethi (a2)
Aims and method

Recent policy guidelines published by the Department of Health highlight the need to develop gender-sensitive psychiatric services. However, very little is currently known about the specific characteristics and needs of female patients entering acute psychiatric wards, particularly psychiatric intensive care units. This article aims to review the current literature on what is known about this group of patients. PubMed, Embase and PsycINFO were systematically searched using a number of key terms.


A total of 27 articles were obtained. The findings were divided into four categories: admission characteristics, treatment needs, risk management and outcomes after discharge. Gender differences were found in diagnosis and presentation.

Clinical implications

The differences observed in the reviewed studies suggest that women may have different assessment and treatment needs, and ultimately, different philosophies of care. A dearth of studies in this area indicates that if services are to develop in line with government policies, more research is needed.

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This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Correspondence to Michaela Archer:
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Women in acute psychiatric units, their characteristics and needs: a review

  • Michaela Archer (a1), Yasmine Lau (a1) and Faisil Sethi (a2)
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