The purpose of this paper is to consider the influence of the Emergency Department (ED) target wait time upon the discharge decision in ED, specifically for patients who have self-harmed. Pressures to discharge patients to avoid breaching the 4-h target wait time, potentially increase the risk of adverse responses from clinicians. For the patient who has self-harmed, such interactions may be experienced as invalidating and may result in adverse outcomes.
Secondary data analysis was applied to the retrospective referral data of a Mental Health Liaison Team (MHLT), collected over a period of 11 months from a single hospital in the North of England. In total, 734 episodes of care were referred to the team from ED, where the primary presentation was recorded as self-harm.
Over half of patients referred to the MHLT from ED having self-harmed were seen after already breaching the target and the potential for a more restrictive outcome reduced. Of those patients seen within 4 h, the potential for a more restrictive treatment option was increased.
Recommendations to improve the patient journey for those who have self-harmed include mental health triage and treatment in clinical areas outside of the target.
This study challenges the concept of the target as being realistic and attainable for patients who have self-harmed.
This exploratory study provides a starting point from which to explore the impact of the target time upon discharge decisions and clinical outcomes specifically for those who have self-harmed.
Haslam, M.B. and Jones, E.S. (2020), "The impact of the Emergency Department target upon the discharge decision for people who self-harm", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 89-97. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-01-2019-0003
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