Patients presenting with a mental health disorder (MHD) wait longer in the ED compared to those presenting for other reasons, potentially placing vulnerable patients at further risk for deterioration. The present study identified factors associated with a long ED stay for patients with a MHD.
Linked ambulance, emergency, pathology, imaging and admission data for an 18-month period were analysed for ED presentations diagnosed with an MHD ICD-10 at a large teaching hospital. Admissions and discharges were considered separately; a long ED stay was defined as the 90th percentile length of stay. Multivariable generalised linear models were built, identifying predictors of a long ED stay for presentations diagnosed with a MHD.
The sample comprised 1163 admissions and 2242 discharges. For admissions, significant predictors for long ED stay were investigations (pathology or imaging tests), a triage score of 1 or 2, arrival out-of-hours (18.00–05.59 hours) and arrival by ambulance. For discharges, significant predictors of a long ED stay were investigations (pathology or imaging tests), arrival out-of-hours, arrival by ambulance and increasing age.
Some factors predictive of a long ED stay for patients presenting to the ED and diagnosed with a MHD varied based on their disposition. For admissions, the most urgent presentations were likely to stay longest. Strategies to reduce ED stay for both admissions and discharges should consider addressing modifiable aspects, including the need for certain investigations, and non-modifiable aspects, including the need for further access to after-hours mental health services in hospital and in the community.