Objective: This study compared the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics and pathways to admission for women admitted to women's crisis houses and to psychiatric hospitals. A women's crisis house is a residential mental health crisis facility for women who would otherwise be considered for voluntary hospital admission.
Methods: A survey of all 388 female admissions to women's crisis houses and psychiatric hospitals in four boroughs of London during a 12-week period in 2006 was conducted with questionnaires administered to key workers involved in the admissions.
Results: Pathways to admission were significantly less complex for women admitted to the crisis houses (fewer preadmission contacts with police, emergency departments, and other services). Women admitted to psychiatric wards were more likely to require supervision or observation. A multivariate analysis of data for the 245 voluntary admissions indicated that women admitted to women's crisis houses were significantly less likely to have a care coordinator (odds ratio [OR]=.528) or to have gone to an accident and emergency department (OR=.214) before admission. No other differences were found between the two groups.
Conclusions: Pathways to admission were somewhat different for women admitted to women's crisis houses, but few clinical or sociodemographic differences were found between the two groups. Women's crisis houses may be a viable alternative to traditional wards for voluntary patients not needing intensive supervision and observation. Research should examine whether women's crisis houses are as effective as traditional inpatient services in treating women with acute psychiatric problems.