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Shah and McKenzie (JRSM 2007;100:352-3)1 note that the ‘Count Me In’ census2 does not present separate analyses for older patients. The census is a requirement of DRE, providing a one-day snapshot of mental health inpatients. It is not a research database, and has caveats.2
Shah and McKenzie raise an important issue. Admissions for dementia and depression in older black and minority ethnic (BME) patients can be explored readily and effectively through routinely available datasets such as Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), which provide a complete picture of inpatient activity and much supplementary information (e.g. on diagnosis). Ethnicity coding in HES 2005/06 was over 90% complete/valid for mental health specialty patients.
In response to the letter, we analysed admission rates for ages 65 and over from the 2006 census data, and also admissions in HES. Our findings are:
We support calls for better information on users of mental health services.3 We've made recommendations for information developments2 that, along with other information initiatives, we are pursuing with the relevant agencies, including the Department of Health. In the interim, researchers may want to draw on the possibilities offered by data sets such as HES, which are widely used for analysing access to and outcomes of inpatient care.4,5
Competing interests None declared.