Home treatment offers an alternative to in-patient care, but little has been written about the practicalities of running such a service. Using routine information sources, details of referral and outcome are presented for patients assessed by a home treatment service over 6 months.
Forty-eight per cent of referrals were not accepted, mainly because of lack of cooperation, risk to self or others or the illness not being acute enough. Referrals from junior doctors and accident & emergency were least likely to be accepted. Seventy-two per cent of patients accepted suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder or depression with psychosis, similar to the diagnoses for in-patients. Twenty per cent of patients accepted had to be transferred to in-patient care later.
Staffing levels need to take account of time spent assessing patients. Junior doctors need training in how to use home treatment services appropriately and a wider range of options are needed to manage patients in crisis out of hours. It is possible to target patients with severe mental illness in a home treatment setting, but a significant number will need transfer to inpatient care.
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