A new study from Oxford reveals the health service costs for hospital care of people who self-harm, emphasising the need for effective clinical services and prevention initiatives.
Self-harm by intentional poisoning or self-injury is a very common reason for presentation to hospital, especially in young people. It is often repeated and carries a significant risk of future suicide. Self-harm was included as a key issue in England’s National Suicide Prevention Strategy for the first time this year. Until now very little information has been available on the costs of hospital care for people who self-harm.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics have linked information from a register of people presenting to a large general hospital following self-harm to financial records in order to estimate the economic costs of their medical and psychiatric care while in hospital. In a report published in The Lancet Psychiatry they showed that the average cost for each episode of self-harm was £809, with higher costs for adolescents than adults. They estimated that if such costs apply to all self-harm episodes presenting to hospitals in England the overall cost to the NHS amounts to £162 million each year.
Professor Keith Hawton, the senior author of the report and Director of the Centre for Suicide Research based at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, said 'The findings of this study highlight the need for high quality services for people who self-harm to provide effective medical care and to ensure that patients receive careful psychiatric assessment in order to plan suitable aftercare. The findings also underline the need for large-scale initiatives to prevent self-harm, such as school-based psychological well-being classes and other community programmes aimed at improving emotional health.'
This research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) Oxford and the Department of Health.
The full paper, 'General hospital costs in England of medical and psychiatric care for patients who self-harm: a retrospective analysis', can be read in The Lancet Psychiatry.