Sir: We read with interest Paul & Oyebode's paper regarding the competence of voluntary psychiatric patients (Psychiatric Bulletin, August 1999, 463–466). We too have data on a related, but distinct, area of research. One hundred consecutive informal patients were interviewed on the third day of admission and one week later. At the first assessment, 78% thought they needed to be in hospital and 74% thought they needed treatment. Only 43% recalled receiving an explanation of their admission and treatment plan. We assessed their knowledge of their rights to refuse admission and treatment. At the first assessment, 67% were aware of their right to refuse treatment with 52% anticipating coercion if they exercised this right. Seventy-three per cent were aware of their right to leave hospital an 42% anticipated coercion if they exercised this right.
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