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Service use preceding and following first referral for psychiatric emergency care at a short-stay crisis unit: A cohort study across three cities and one rural area in England

Goldsmith, L., Anderson, K., Clarke, G. , Crowe, C., Jarman, H., Johnson, S., Lomani, J., McDaid, D., Park, A. L., Smith, J. G. & Gillard, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9686-2232 (2022). Service use preceding and following first referral for psychiatric emergency care at a short-stay crisis unit: A cohort study across three cities and one rural area in England. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 69(4), pp. 928-941. doi: 10.1177/00207640221142530


Background: Internationally, hospital-based short-stay crisis units have been introduced to provide a safe space for stabilisation and further assessment for those in psychiatric crisis. The units typically aim to reduce inpatient admissions and psychiatric presentations to emergency departments.

Aims: To assess changes to service use following a service user’s first visit to a unit, characterise the population accessing these units and examine equality of access to the units.

Methods: A prospective cohort study design (ISCTRN registered; 53431343) compared service use for the 9 months preceding and following a first visit to a short-stay crisis unit at three cities and one rural area in England. Included individuals first visited a unit in the 6 months between 01/September/2020 and 28/February/2021.

Results: The prospective cohort included 1189 individuals aged 36 years on average, significantly younger (by 5–13 years) than the population of local service users (<.001). Seventy percent were White British and most were without a psychiatric diagnosis (55%–82% across sites). The emergency department provided the largest single source of referrals to the unit (42%), followed by the Crisis and Home Treatment Team (20%). The use of most mental health services, including all types of admission and community mental health services was increased post discharge. Social-distancing measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic were in place for slightly over 50% of the follow-up period. Comparison to a pre-COVID cohort of 934 individuals suggested that the pandemic had no effect on the majority of service use variables.

Conclusions: Short-stay crisis units are typically accessed by a young population, including those who previously were unknown to mental health services, who proceed to access a broader range of mental health services following discharge.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: Mental health crisis, psychiatric admission, emergency department, experience of care, mental health nursing, short-stay crisis care
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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