General hospital-treated self-poisoning in England and Australia: comparison of presentation rates, clinical characteristics and aftercare based on sentinel unit data

J Psychosom Res. 2015 Apr;78(4):356-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.01.006. Epub 2015 Jan 17.


Objective: Hospital-treated deliberate self-poisoning (DSP) is common and the existing national monitoring systems are often deficient. Clinical Practice Guidelines (UK and Australia) recommend universal psychosocial assessment within the general hospital as standard care. We compared presentation rates, patient characteristics, psychosocial assessment and aftercare in UK and Australia.

Methods: We used a cross sectional design, for a ten year study of all DSP presentations identified through sentinel units in Oxford, UK (n=3042) and Newcastle, Australia (n=3492).

Results: Oxford had higher presentation rates for females (standardised rate ratio 2.4: CI 99% 1.9, 3.2) and males (SRR 2.5: CI 99% 1.7, 3.5). Female to male ratio was 1.6:1, 70% presented after-hours, 95% were admitted to a general hospital and co-ingestion of alcohol occurred in a substantial minority (Oxford 24%, Newcastle 32%). Paracetamol, minor tranquilisers and antidepressants were the commonest drug groups ingested, although the overall pattern differed. Psychosocial assessment rates were high (Oxford 80%, Newcastle 93%). Discharge referral for psychiatric inpatient admission (Oxford 8%, Newcastle 28%), discharge to home (Oxford 80%, Newcastle 70%) and absconding (Oxford 11%, Newcastle 2%) differed between the two units.

Conclusions: Oxford has higher age-standardised rates of DSP than Newcastle, although many other characteristics of patients are similar. Services can provide a high level of assessment as recommended in clinical guidelines. There is some variation in after-care. Sentinel service monitoring routine care of DSP patients can provide valuable comparisons between countries.

Keywords: Deliberate self-poisoning; Epidemiology; Hospital services; Self-harm; Suicide attempt.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aftercare* / methods
  • Aftercare* / standards
  • Aftercare* / trends
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Discharge
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*


  • Antidepressive Agents