Process of care in general hospital psychiatric units: National survey in Italy

Antonella Gigantesco, Pierluigi Morosini, Angelo Picardi, Rossella Miglio, Giovanni Santone, Giovanni de Girolamo, Renata Bracco, Bruno Norcio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate the process of care in Italian public acute inpatient facilities. Method: Each facility's head psychiatrist (in allItalian regions except Sicily) completed a structured interview concerning provision of treatment and facility rules. Results: Twenty-three university psychiatric clinics with 399 beds (mean=17.3 beds), 16 24 h community mental health centers with 98 beds (mean=6.1 beds), and 262 general hospital psychiatric units with 3431 beds (mean=13.1 beds) were surveyed. Mean length of stay was 18.5±7.1 days, 37.0±55.3 days and 12.0±3.4 days, respectively. Pharmacotherapy was ubiquitous. Approximately 80% of facilities held regular clinical evaluations, supportive talks, and counselling. Dynamic focused psychotherapy was available in 29% of the facilities; 24% provided cognitive behavioural therapy; 32% family therapy; and 39% structured rehabilitative intervention. Vocational training and activities targeted at helping patient integration into their local communities were uncommon. Most facilities did not allow the possession of cutting utensils (96%), personally possessed medication (96%), or lighters (72%), and most had locked doors (75%). Fewer facilities (37%) prohibited the use of mobile phones (32%) and metal knives during mealtimes (37%). Frequency of physical restraint was associated with number of internal rules. Delivery of psychotherapy was associated with nurst provision. Conclusions: The process of psychiatric inpatient care in Italy shows considerable variability. Future clinical practice guidelines should address the currently limited provision of evidence-based psychosocial intervention in these facilities. Efforts should also be devoted to improving the effectiveness of the hospital-community mental health service interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-518
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Acute inpatients
  • General hospital psychiatric unit
  • Process of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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