Patient referrals to a psychiatric facility may be from a variety of sources including medical practitioners, health professionals and family members. When responding to a situation where a person displays aggressive or disruptive behaviour, police have to decide if the person should be taken to a psychiatric facility for care. There is little known about how police referrals differ from referrals from other sources.
This paper reports on an audit of files for patients admitted to a psychiatric hospital. A total of 101 files for patients referred by the police and admitted over a 6-month period and 99 files of those referred from other sources and admitted were examined.
Patients referred by police and admitted to the hospital differed to those admitted by other sources. Police referrals were more likely to be aggressive, have drug and alcohol problems and to require admission to the psychiatric intensive care unit.
To identify any differences between patients referred by police compared with patients referred from other sources, to a psychiatric hospital in Australia, a retrospective audit of 200 patient files was undertaken. The two most common reasons for the involuntary referral of patients by police were bizarre ideas (33%) and threats of suicide (28%). When 101 patients referred by police were compared with 99 patients from other sources, police referrals were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental and behavioural disorder because of psychoactive substance use, less likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, and less likely to be diagnosed as psychotic. Police referrals were more likely to have worse functional scores; exhibit aggressive behaviour; spend fewer days in hospital; more likely to be admitted to the psychiatric intensive care unit, and to be secluded. The most important predictor for a police referral was drug or alcohol problems. The study indicates that patients referred by the police were more likely to demonstrate particular characteristics compared with patients referred by other sources.