Mental health services, suicide and 7-day working

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Abstract

Background

Patients admitted to hospital at the weekend appear to be at increased risk of death compared with those admitted at other times. However, a ‘weekend effect’ has rarely been explored in mental health and there may also be other times of year when patients are vulnerable.

Aims

To investigate the timing of suicide in high-risk mental health patients.

Method

We compared the incidence of suicide at the weekend v. during the week, and also in August (the month of junior doctor changeover) v. other months in in-patients, patients within 3 months of discharge and patients under the care of crisis resolution home treatment (CRHT) teams (2001–2013).

Results

The incidence of suicide was lower at the weekends for each group (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.88 (95% CI 0.79–0.99) for in-patients, IRR = 0.85 (95% CI 0.78–0.92) for post-discharge patients, IRR = 0.87 (95% CI 0.78–0.97) for CRHT patients). Patients who died by suicide were also less likely to have been admitted at weekends than during the week (IRR = 0.52 (95% CI 0.45–0.60)). The incidence of suicide in August was not significantly different from other months.

Conclusions

We found evidence of a weekend effect for suicide risk among high-risk mental health patients, but with a 12–15% lower incidence at weekends. Our study does not support the claim that safety is compromised at weekends, at least in mental health services.

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