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An examination of the accident and emergency management of deliberate self harm.
  1. M Dennis,
  2. M Beach,
  3. P A Evans,
  4. A Winston,
  5. T Friedman
  1. Division of Psychiatry for the Elderly, University of Leicester, Leicester General Hospital.


    OBJECTIVE: To examine the adequacy of assessment and management of deliberate self harm (DSH) undertaken by accident and emergency (A&E) medical staff. METHODS: The records for attendances to the Leicester Royal Infirmary A&E department with a diagnosis of "self inflicted" injury for the 12 month period April 1994 to March 1995 were scrutinised. If the episode was identified as DSH, then assessment and management were examined, using an instrument based on the Royal College of Psychiatrists' standards of service for the general hospital management of adult DSH. RESULTS: There were 934 episodes of DSH involving 854 patients. The mean age was 32 (SD 14.2), with an even sex distribution. Overdose was by far the most common method of DSH (91.5%). Information concerning suicide intent was documented in 70% of cases, and psychiatric history in 67%. Less information was recorded for medical history (50%), mental state (51%), recent stress (55%), or previous DSH (47%), and only 23% had an assessment of risk of further DSH. Very little was recorded concerning alcohol or substance misuse. In 291 cases (31%), the patient was discharged directly home by A&E medical staff, and 50 of these were referred for psychiatric outpatient follow up; 210 (23%) were referred for specialist assessment in the department and 423 (45.5%) were admitted to medical/surgical wards. The frequency with which information was recorded varied significantly between outcome groups. At night A&E staff were far more likely to discharge a patient home themselves than refer for specialist assessment (P << 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: With over half the sample not admitted, the responsibility for the initial risk assessment lies with A&E medical staff. The study reveals a need for improved planning and delivery of services.

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