This study collected an area-wide snapshot of current handover practice in psychiatric settings which included acute care units and community mental health centres. The study was conducted in two stages. Firstly, a questionnaire was sent to all clinical mental health staff within an area-wide health service regarding normal handover procedures and processes. The second part of the study used non-participant observers to evaluate actual handovers in inpatient and community settings. Of the 1125 surveys distributed in stage one, 380 (34%) were returned completed. Of the 40 handovers observed in stage two in which 637 patients were discussed, 40% included at least one consultant psychiatrist or registrar as a participant. Almost all the handovers were completed face-to-face in a specific location with a set time and duration. Eighty-six per cent of respondents reported that deteriorating patients were escalated for rapid response. The results of the survey and structured observations support the issues emerging from the literature from medical, surgical and clinical team handovers. Additionally, the issue of identifiers for deterioration of a psychiatric patient emerged as an area worthy of further investigation and incorporation into clinical handover education and training for psychiatric services.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing.