To determine the effectiveness of planned short hospital stays versus standard care for people with serious mental illness.
Systematic review of all randomised controlled trials comparing planned short hospital stay versus long hospital stay or standard care for people with serious mental illness.
Four trials enrolled 628 patients.
Main outcomes measures
Relapse; readmission; death (suicides and all causes); violent incidents (self, others, property); lost to follow up; premature discharge; delayed discharge; mental state (not improved); social functioning; patient satisfaction, quality of life, self esteem, and psychological wellbeing; family burden; imprisonment; employment status; independent living; total cost of care; and average length of hospital stay.
Patients allocated to planned short hospital stays had no more readmissions (in four trials, odds ratio 0.93, 95% confidence interval 0.66 to 1.29 with no heterogeneity between trials), no more losses to follow up (in three trials of 404 patients, 1.09, 0.62 to 1.91 with no heterogeneity between trials), and more successful discharges on time (in three trials of 404 patients, 0.47, 0.27 to 0.85) than patients allocated long hospital stays or standard care. Some evidence showed that patients allocated planned short hospital stay were no more likely to leave hospital prematurely and had a greater chance of being employed than those allocated long hospital stay or standard care. Data on mental, social, and family outcomes could not be summated, and there were few or no data on patient satisfaction, deaths, violence, criminal behaviour, and costs.
The effectiveness of care in mental hospitals is important to patients, carers, and policy makers. Despite inadequacies in the data, this review suggests that planned short hospital stays do not encourage a “revolving door” pattern of care for people with serious mental illness and may be more effective than standard care. Further pragmatic trials are needed on the most effective organisation and delivery of care in mental hospitals.
Key messagesThe effectiveness of care in mental hospitals is important to patients, carers, and policymakers irrespective of the quality and quantity of community care and the provision of newer psychotic drugsInpatient costs use around 80% of mental health resources, yet a longstanding record of poor or inadequate evidence on the organisation and delivery of hospital care was highlightedDespite this, planned short hospital stays seem to be as successful, or more so, than standard care: patients experienced no more readmissions and no more losses to follow up and were more likely to be discharged on time than those receiving standard careFurther pragmatic trials are needed that focus on the most effective organisation and delivery of care in mental hospitals