Overnight admitted mental health-related care

Some people’s mental health care needs may require care in a hospital setting such as a hospital ward, an emergency department or an outpatient clinic. A patient may be admitted to the hospital just for the day, a single overnight stay, or for a number of days. Care that lasts more than one day is referred to as, overnight admitted patient care.

When admitted to a hospital, patients can receive specialised psychiatric care in a psychiatric hospital or in a hospital’s psychiatric unit. Patients with mental illness may also be admitted overnight to other areas of the hospital where health care workers may not be specifically trained to care for the mentally ill, such as a drug and alcohol treatment unit. These overnight admissions are classified as being without specialised psychiatric care.

This section presents information on overnight admitted patient mental health-related separations from Australian hospitals. Data are sourced from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD): a collation of data on admitted patient care in Australian hospitals defined by the Admitted Patient Care National Minimum Data Set (APC NMDS). It is possible for patients to have multiple separations in any given reference period. Further information can be found in the data source section.

Data downloads:

Overnight admitted mental health-related care tables (911KB XLS)

Overnight admitted mental health-related care section (891KB)

Data coverage includes the time period 2006–07 to 2016–17. This section was last updated in October 2018.

Key points

  • In 2016–17, about 258,300 overnight admitted mental health-related separations occurred in public and private hospitals of which 63.5% included specialised psychiatric care.
  • More than a third (36.6%) of overnight admitted mental health-related separations with specialised psychiatric care for all hospital types were involuntary admissions.
  • About 1 in 7 overnight admitted mental health-related separations with specialised psychiatric care had a principal diagnosis of Schizophrenia (14.7%) or Depressive episode (14.4%).
  • For overnight admitted mental health-related separations without specialised psychiatric care the most common principal diagnoses were Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol (21.1%) and Other organic mental disorders (18.0%).
  • The rate of overnight admitted mental health-related separations for Indigenous patients without specialised psychiatric care was almost four times that of other Australians.

There were over 4.3 million overnight separations from public acute, public psychiatric and private hospitals in 2016–17. There were 258,302 overnight admitted mental health-related separations in 2016–17, accounting for 1 in 18 (5.9%) of all overnight hospital separations. Of these, 164,060 (63.5%) involved specialised psychiatric care and 94,242 (36.5%) did not involve specialised psychiatric care. The majority of overnight mental health-related separations occurred in public hospitals (79.9%).

The number of overnight mental health separations increased by an annual average of 5.5% in the 5 years to 2016–17, whereas overnight non-mental health overnight separations increased by an annual average of 2.4% over the same period. In terms of patient days, in the 5 years to 2016–17 overnight mental health separations increased by an annual average of 8.3% and overnight non-mental health separations by 1.1%. The rate per 10,000 population increased by an annual average of 3.9% for overnight mental health separations and 0.8% for overnight non-mental health separations. For all of these measures, there were similar findings seen for public hospitals and private hospitals.