Health care. A model for the management of self-poisoning

Med J Aust. 1997 Aug 4;167(3):142-6. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1997.tb138813.x.


Objective: To describe the development and activity of a multidisciplinary service to manage self-poisoning.

Design: Descriptive, comparative study with prospective data collection.

Setting: Regional toxicology treatment centre in the Hunter area of New South Wales (NSW) with primary and secondary referral service to 385,000 people and tertiary referral service to a further 100,000.

Patients: All patients (1987-1995) with poisoning or envenomation presenting to the Hunter Area Toxicology Service (HATS).

Main outcome measures: Average length of stay for HATS compared with national and NSW hospitals; mortality data for HATS compared with NSW.

Results: Average length of stay for HATS was 0.53-1.22 days shorter than for all Australian hospitals, potentially saving 518 bed-days, valued at $468,000 per year. Average length of stay was 0.94-3.39 days shorter than for all NSW hospitals, saving 1470 bed-days at $1.4 million per year. Inpatient mortality (0.2%; 95% confidence interval, 0.0-1.1) was not significantly different from NSW (0.5%; 95% CI, 0.2-0.8). Standardised mortality ratios showed no greater all-cause suicide mortality.

Conclusions: In our centralised model for managing self-poisoning, all toxicology patients in an area health service are diverted to one hospital, where all patients with deliberate self-poisoning are admitted under the one multidisciplinary team, and all receive psychiatric assessment. This model has substantially reduced bed stay, with considerable savings to the Hunter Area Health Service manifested as an increase in beds available for other purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Critical Pathways*
  • Hospital Costs
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • New South Wales
  • Patient Care Team
  • Poisoning / economics
  • Poisoning / psychology
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Suicide, Attempted