Research Article

Psychological and social evaluation in cases of deliberate self-poisoning admitted to a general hospital.

Br Med J 1977; 2 doi: (Published 17 December 1977) Cite this as: Br Med J 1977;2:1567
  1. R Gardner,
  2. R Hanka,
  3. V C O'Brien,
  4. A J Page,
  5. R Rees


    In a prospective clinical trial 312 cases of self-poisoning (276 patients) consecutively admitted to hospital were randomly allocated to medical teams or to psychiatrists for an initial psychiatric assessment and a decision as to "disposal." Junior doctors and nurses received some instruction in this work. Both groups of assessors asked for help from social workers when necessary. Once the medical teams had completed their assessments, psychiatrists provided most of the hospital treatment. Follow-up at one year showed no significant difference between the two groups of patients in the numbers who repeated their self-poisoning or self-injury (or both), or committed suicide. Provided junior doctors and nurses are taught to assess self-poisoned patients, we think medical teams can evaluate the suicidal risk and identify patients requiring psychiatric treatment or help from social workers, or both. Contrary to the Department of Health's recommendation that all cases of deliberate self-poisoning should be seen by psychiatrists, we have reached the conclusion that physicians should decide for each of their patients if specialist psychiatric advice is necessary.