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Crisis houses viable alternative to psychiatric wards for voluntary admissions

DECEMBER 09, 2008

In a paper entitled ‘Admission to Women’s Crisis Houses or to Psychiatric Wards: Women’s Pathways to Admission’ published in Psychiatric Services this month, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s, demonstrate that women’s crisis houses can be a viable alternative to traditional wards for voluntary patients not needing intensive supervision and observation. 

Women’s crisis houses are available in some mental health services for female voluntary patients needing psychiatric admission. They offer 24 hour care in a residential setting that is less institutionalised and potentially less stigmatising.  Previous research has found that these services are highly valued by service users and the Department of Health has recommended their development.  The National Institute for Mental Health in England has designated them a priority however there are still few available in the UK or abroad.  In the first study to compare admissions to crisis houses and psychiatric wards, the authors aimed to establish factors influencing admission to one over the other.

This study examined 245 consecutive voluntary psychiatric admissions, over a 12 week period, in 3 London boroughs which had women’s crisis houses and psychiatric wards available for such admissions. The researchers found that there were few clinical or socio-demographic differences between women admitted to the crisis houses and women admitted voluntarily to psychiatric wards in these catchment areas, but women admitted to wards were more likely to need intensive supervision and observation.

These findings suggest that women’s crisis houses may therefore be a useful alternative to psychiatric wards when intensive observation and supervision are not required. Further studies are needed to investigate whether they are as effective as traditional wards and the researchers have started to investigate this in a pilot trial, the results of which will be available next year.

The research project was led by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s with colleagues from University College London. The paper’s authors are Louise Howard, Elena Rigon, Laura Cole, Caroline Lawlor, Sonia Johnson. They were supported by the UK Medical Research Council.

A full copy of the paper can be accessed here:

For further information please contact Dr Louise Howard.
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