Psychosocial assessment following self-harm: Repetition of nonfatal self-harm after assessment by psychiatrists or mental health nurses
Russell, G. & Owens, D.
Background: Patients admitted to hospital because of self-harm should receive psychosocial assessment before discharge. In practice many of these assessments in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are undertaken by trainee rather than specialist psychiatrists.
Aims: To compare psychosocial assessments, aftercare, and the pattern of non-fatal repetition for patients admitted to general hospital after self-harm: comparing assessments carried out by trainee psychiatrists, allocated to the task alongside other duties on a roster, or by mental health nurses with a designated role in self-harm services.
Methods: Arrangements for aftercare and rates of non-fatal repetition of self-harm in 787 consecutive psychosocial assessments in a large UK city were compared, according to whether the assessments were carried out by trainee psychiatrists or mental health nurses.
Results: Compared with nurses, psychiatrists were much more likely to arrange psychiatric admission or outpatient follow-up. Nurses more often pointed people towards voluntary sector help – such as drug, alcohol or relationship counselling. Repetition of self-harm was equally common among those assessed by nurses or psychiatrists (33%; hazard ratio 0.93, 95% confidence interval 0.71 to 1.2).
Conclusions: Despite making fewer aftercare arrangements that involved statutory mental health care services, psychosocial assessment by mental health nurses showed no sign of detrimental effects on repetition of self-harm.