Background: The assessment and reporting of national patterns of psychiatric hospital admissions is important for strategic service development and planning.
Aims: To investigate patterns of psychiatric hospital admissions of patients aged 16-64 years in England.
Method: We used the Department of Health's national Hospital Episode Statistics data on admissions to National Health Service hospitals in England between April 1999 and March 2000, to investigate patterns by region, gender, age and diagnosis.
Results: The annual admission rate for England was 3.2 per 1000 population. There were marked regional variations and rates were higher in males than in females. Depression and anxiety together were the most common (29.6%) reason for admission. Length of stay exceeded 90 days in 9.2% of admissions and 1 year in 0.9% (highest in London and for psychoses).
Conclusions: Depression and anxiety together were the most frequent diagnoses leading to hospitalisation. There has been a reversal of the previously reported predominance of female admissions. Regional variations in activity and the significant numbers of patients remaining for long periods in'acute' inpatient care have important policy implications.