Constant observation is used in psychiatric practice mainly to prevent acutely III in-patients from self-harm. All in-patients in a psychiatric hospital and a general hospital psychiatric unit who had been on constant observation over a 6 month period were identified (13 patients). These patients and their primary nurses were interviewed using different questionnaires. Most patients felt they had benefited from being on constant observation, but disliked the intrusion on their privacy. The nurses agreed that it had helped most patients, but a significant number of nurses found it frustrating and stressful. Our results suggest a need for an information sheet to be given to patients placed on constant observation; that the period on constant observation should be reduced where possible, and that support should be provided for the nurses involved.
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