Research Article

Community care for patients with schizophrenia one year after hospital discharge.

BMJ 1991; 303 doi: (Published 26 October 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;303:1023
  1. D Melzer,
  2. A S Hale,
  3. S J Malik,
  4. G A Hogman,
  5. S Wood
  1. West Lambeth Health Authority, St Thomas's Hospital, London.


    OBJECTIVES--To document the circumstances and care of patients with schizophrenia who had recently been discharged from local psychiatric inpatient services, and to establish the extent to which misgivings about community care might be justified. DESIGN--Cross sectional surveys with review of case notes. Follow up interviews with questionnaires administered one year after discharge. SETTING--Two inner London districts (West Lambeth and Lewisham) with high levels of social deprivation and at different stages of developing community services. PATIENTS--90 and 50 patients in the two services respectively, aged 18 to 65, who satisfied the Research Diagnostic Criteria for schizophrenia and who were discharged from inpatient services. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Diagnosis elicited by present state examination, global social disability rating, use of services during the three months before interview. RESULTS--89 of the 140 patients (64%) had been ill for five or more years, yet few were former long stay inpatients. 55% (50/91; 95% confidence interval 45% to 65%) of those interviewed had current psychotic mental states and 22% (27/124; 16% to 31%) were functioning socially at very poor or severely maladjusted levels. 86% (107/124) were unemployed. The majority of patients had seen a mental health or social service professional, yet only 16% (20/124) were in specialised accomodation (excluding hospitals) and only 23% (17/73) of those eligible had used day care. Small numbers of people had experienced homelessness (two) or imprisonment (four over six months). CONCLUSIONS--Many schizophrenic patients leaving local psychiatric inpatient care have active symptomatology and profound social disabilities. Community care was characterised by high rates of contact with service professionals but little supported accommodation or day activity. This group of clients may require dedicated provision, which would actively encourage them to use services protected from the demands of those with less severe illness.