When planning new service initiatives it is important to review the role and functioning of existing services. As more patients are discharged from long-stay beds, there is increasing concern regarding the quality of community care and the accessibility of urgent psychiatric help. The Department of Health has recently expressed concern over the level of such services provided (DoH, 1989). In Edinburgh, alternative methods of delivering psychiatric emergency care are currently being considered. Community-orientated crisis intervention teams may be useful, but only a small proportion of people presenting to general psychiatric services fit into the stereotyped model of crisis. Centres with short-term admission facilities have been developed in other countries and within the United Kingdom many general hospital casualty departments have a psychiatrist available on call. Walk-in or self-referral psychiatric clinics provide an easily accessible service but few have been systematically reported (Lim, 1983; Haw, 1987). Such clinics have been described as seeing mainly chronic patients of the hospital who are already in current contact and who present with less severe psychiatric disorders than GP-referred cases. In a climate of NHS financial restraint it is pertinent to ask whether such clinics are needed.
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