Background: Previous findings indicate that mental health problems are common in Emergency departments; however, there are few studies of the extent of health-related problems and emergency service use in mental health populations as a whole.
Methods: Record linkage methods were used to map the association between mental health, age, gender, and health-related harm across total health and mental health care populations in one geographical area, over three years. By examining patterns of health-related harm, an accurate profile of mentally ill Emergency patients was generated enabling identification of factors that increased vulnerability to harm.
Results: Of the total population of 625 964 individuals, 10.7% contacted Accident and Emergency (A&E) over three years, this proportion rose to 28.6% among the total secondary care mental health population. Young men and older women were more likely to contact A&E, both overall and within mental health populations and were also more likely to be frequent attendees at A&E. Four distinct groups (typologies) of mental health patients attending A&E emerged: young, male frequent attendees with self-inflicted and other traumatic injuries; young females also presenting with self-harm; older patients with multiple medical conditions; and very old patients with cardiac conditions and fractures.
Conclusion: The study indicates increased A+E service use and unmet health-related need within a total mental health population. It identifies specific 'care populations' particularly vulnerable to accidents and self-harm and highlights the need for targeted services for mentally ill groups who may not access traditional health and social care services effectively.