Acute psychiatric beds: distribution and staffing in NSW and ACT.

The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry

PubMedID: 7487786

Rosenman S. Acute psychiatric beds: distribution and staffing in NSW and ACT. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1995;29(2):238-47.
This study examined the availability and staffing of acute psychiatry beds in NSW and ACT. "Gazetted" acute psychiatry hospitals (which take compulsory admissions under mental health law) were polled directly for bed numbers, occupancy and staffing for the year 1990-1991. The NSW Department of Health provided beds numbers for non-gazetted and private hospitals. Four analyses sequentially reallocated beds according to the origin of patients to estimate acute bed availability and use by regional populations. Socio-demographic determinants of acute admission rates were measured. Acute "gazetted" beds averaged 13.2 per 100,000 population but ranged from 6.9 to 49.1 per 100,000 when cross-regional flows were considered. "Non-gazetted" beds raised the provision to 15.5 per 100,000 and private beds raised provision further to 24.5 per 100,000. Inner metropolitan provision was higher than rural or provincial provision. The only determinant of the admission rate to gazetted beds was the number of available beds. Bed availability did not affect either bed occupancy or referral of patients to remote hospitals. Nursing staffing of gazetted units was reasonably uniform, although smaller units had significantly more nurses per bed. Medical staffing was highly variable and appears determined by staff availability. The average provision of acute psychiatric beds approximates lowest levels seen in international models for psychiatric services. Average occupancy rates suggest that there is not an overall shortfall of acute psychiatric beds, but uneven bed distribution creates barriers to access. Referral of patients to remote hospitals is not related to actual bed provision in the regions, but appears to reflect attitudes to ensuring local care. Recommendations about current de facto standards are made. Current average nursing and medical staffing standards are reported.