Intended for healthcare professionals


Effectiveness of planned short hospital stays for mental health care

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 11 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:711

Older studies' definitions of lengths of stay are now outdated

  1. Spencer Eth, professor of psychiatry (
  1. Saint Vincents Hospital, New York, NY 10011, USA
  2. Tees Health Authority, Middlesbrough TS7 0NJ
  3. Pathfinder Mental Health Services NHS Trust, London SW17 7DJ

    EDITOR—Johnstone and Zolese report their systematic review of the effectiveness of planned short hospital stays for mental health care.1 Their findings may leave casual readers believing that new evidence has been marshalled to show that brief admissions to a psychiatric hospital “do not encourage a ‘revolving door’ pattern of care for people with serious mental illness and may be more effective than standard care.”1 Such a conclusion would be erroneous and, in an era of aggressive cost containment, dangerous.

    In fact, this article merely presents a meta-analysis of four old and very different studies, each comparing “long” with “short” hospital stays. All the studies were performed more than 20 years ago, before the …

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