A systematic review of in-patient psychiatric care for people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism: effectiveness, patient safety and experience

Clare L. Melvin, Magali Barnoux, Regi Alexander, Ashok Roy, John Devapriam, Robert Blair, Samuel Joseph Tromans, Lee Shepstone, Peter E. Langdon

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Background: An increasing number of children, adolescents and adults wit intellectual disabilities and/or autism are being admitted to general psychiatric wards and cared for by general psychiatrists.
Aims: The aim of this systematic review was to consider the likely effectiveness of in-patient treatment for this population, and compare and contrast differing models of in-patient care.
Method: A systematic search was completed to identify papers where authors had reported data about the effectiveness of in-patient admissions with reference to one of the three domains: treatment effect (e.g. length of stay, clinical outcome, readmission), patient safety (e.g. restrictive practices) and patient experience
(e.g. patient or family satisfaction). Where possible, outcomes associated with admission were considered further within the context of differing models of in-patient care (e.g. specialist inpatient services versus general mental health in-patient services).
Results: A total of 106 studies were included and there was evidence that improvements in mental health, social functioning, behaviour and forensic risk were associated with in-patient admission. There were two main models of in-patient psychiatric care described within the literature: admission to a specialist
intellectual disability or general mental health in-patient service. Patients admitted to specialist intellectual disability in-patient services had greater complexity, but there were additional benefits, including fewer out-of-area discharges and lower seclusion rates.
Conclusions: There was evidence that admission to in-patient services was
associated with improvements in mental health for this population. There was some evidence indicating better outcomes for those admitted to specialist services.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere187
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number6
Early online date21 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Intellectual disability
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • psychiatric in-patient treatment
  • mental health
  • hospital

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