An audit of non-urgent general adult referrals to Stikland State Psychiatric Facility

J Ras, L Koen, U A Botha, D J H Niehaus


Objectives. The national Department of Health strongly advocates the strengthening of primary health care systems, and recommendations for appropriate level of care referrals exist. Very few published data on the scope of current ambulatory specialised psychiatric hospital services in South Africa are currently available, making it difficult to assess whether these recommendations are being followed. As a starting point, an audit was conducted to obtain a profile of new non-urgent general adult patients seen at Stikland Hospital with a view to evaluating system needs and demands.

Methods. The folders of 103 consecutively seen patients were selected for retrospective review. Patient demographic, referral and assessment information was entered into a single database. Descriptive statistics were compiled with reference to the above variables using SPSS.

Results. Overall 58.3% of referrals were from the private sector. More than a third (36.7%) of referral letters stated no clear reason for referral and 41.7% no psychiatric diagnosis, and 29.1% of patients were referred without psychotropic medication being started. On assessment 62.1% of patients were found to have a single Axis I diagnosis. Despite virtually no referral letters making any mention of them, substance use disorders (30.1%), personality traits/disorders (35.9%) and co-morbid medical illness (36.7%) were commonly found on assessment.

Conclusions. A significant portion of the patients in our sample could have been managed at primary care level and were referred prematurely. The overall quality of referral letters was poor, and they lacked vital information required for appropriate pre-assessment decision making. Undergraduate training focusing on these skills should be intensified, and consideration should be given to incorporating aspects of our findings into primary health care updates.


Outpatient, Audit

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Submitted: 09 June 2011
Published: 01 December 2011

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)