Quantifying the relationship between waiting time and clinic attendance in child and adolescent psychiatry would allow better estimation of the resources needed to eliminate waiting lists in specific initiatives. All cases on a waiting list were sent a questionnaire, return of the questionnaire being necessary for an appointment to be made. Those who did not return the questionnaire or did not attend were contacted and a reason obtained whenever possible. The data were analysed using Cox regression.
Most who did not return their questionnaires had been waiting less than four weeks or longer than 30 weeks. Questionnaire return seemed a good estimate of intention to attend. Other factors improving questionnaire return were younger patient age, previous experience of the service, a clear common reason for referral, and a non-general practitioner referral source.
Waiting lists in child and adolescent psychiatry may have a natural ‘endpoint’ at 30 weeks beyond which families give up, while waiting lists of less than one-month may be too short to lose transient problems. Failure to include this and other indicators of non-attendance may lead to overestimates of resources needed to remove queues for treatment. Questionnaires may be useful in identifying those intending to attend.
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