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The psychosocial assessment of deliberate self harm: using clinical audit to improve the quality of the service


Objectives—To determine whether simple service initiatives resulted in an improvement in the quality of the psychosocial assessment of adults presenting with deliberate self harm (DSH) by accident and emergency (A&E) medical staff.

Method—The quality of psychosocial assessment of adults presenting to an A&E department after DSH for a 12 month period was examined using an audit instrument developed from the Royal College of Psychiatrists' standards of service provision for the general hospital management of adult DSH. The results were then compared with a similar audit that had been conducted three years previously. A number of service improvements had been implemented after this first audit.

Results—A total of 1359 episodes of adult DSH were identified. When compared with the previous audit, the frequency of information recorded in the case notes was significantly improved in all areas of the psychosocial assessment (p < 0.001) apart from mental state. There were significant changes in treatment between the two audits, with a higher proportion in 1997/8 (362, 26.5%) assessed by a mental health specialist in the department than in 1994/5 (154, 16.5%; χ2 = 33, p < 0.001). The frequency of recorded information for those who were not admitted directly to medical or surgical wards was significantly higher for all factors (p<0.01) apart from conscious level and medical history.

Conclusions—A substantial improvement in the quality of the psychosocial assessment of adults presenting with DSH by A&E medical staff was achieved with the introduction of simple service developments. Encouraging staff to use a comprehensive checklist, proved particularly beneficial.

  • deliberate self harm
  • suicide risk

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