Objective: To report the results of the policies and procedures subsection of a nationwide electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) survey: Canadian Electroconvulsive Therapy Survey/Enquête canadienne sur les electrochocs.
Method: We contacted 1273 registered health care institutions in Canada and invited the 175 centres identified as providing ECT to complete a comprehensive postal questionnaire. Nonresponding sites were repeatedly reminded and then eventually contacted by telephone.
Results: Sixty-one per cent (107/175) of the institutions returned survey questionnaires. Most (84%) of the responding sites have a written general policy for the delivery of ECT. Only 27% of respondents indicated having some written policy for managing concurrent medications during ECT, and practice was quite variable regarding individual psychotropics. Informed consent was usually obtained by the attending physician (88%), and most sites indicated conveying information before ECT by using interdisciplinary and multimodal means. Almost all of the sites (93%) discharged outpatients with accompaniment home by a responsible adult.
Conclusions: It is reassuring to note that general ECT policies and procedures do exist in most Canadian ECT centres. Wider variations in practice were observed in several areas, such as the elements of consent provided to patients and families, the use of concurrent medications, and the degree of supervision on discharge home after outpatient ECT. However, adherence to these policies was not captured by the results of the survey. Based on experiences in other countries, establishing a Canadian ECT accreditation service could further improve standards of practice.