Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the policy of closing psychiatric hospitals and replacing their functions with community-based services.
Method: All long-stay nondemented patients in two U.K. hospitals scheduled for closure were assessed with a series of schedules. All patients in one hospital and a proportion of those in the other hospital were reassessed 1 year after discharge to community facilities.
Results: Of the 737 patients discharged from the two hospitals, 24 died before follow-up, two by suicide. Follow-up was successful for 94.6% of the survivors. Only seven patients were lost to follow-up and are presumed to have become homeless. Only two patients went to prison, one briefly. There was very little change in patients' psychiatric symptoms or social behavior problems. The community homes provided a much less restrictive environment than the hospital wards. Discharged patients were very appreciative of their increased freedom, and over 80% wished to stay in their community homes. There was an increase in the proportion of patients with incontinence and immobility. The patients' social lives were enriched by an increase in friends, and some made contact with neighbors and others in the community. However, there was a decrease in contact with relatives following discharge.
Conclusions: When the capital and revenue resources of a psychiatric hospital are reinvested in community services, based on staffed houses, there are few problems with crime or homelessness. With such well-resourced services, the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages for both old and new long-stay patients.