Figures show fall in time people spending in hospital for mental health reasons

2 Jul 2014 | Health Quality Intelligence

A new way of looking at data has shown a fall in the time people spent in hospital for mental health reasons.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission has published the data on the new mental health domain of the New Zealand Atlas of Healthcare Variation. It presents a key selection of mental health and addiction ‘indicators’ from district health boards (DHBs), in an easy-to-use map and accompanying graphs.

The Atlas shows that in 2012/13 people spent less time in hospital for mental health reasons compared to 2009/10, down from an average of 19.6 days to 17.6 days.

The data also shows a fall in the difference between DHBs in the time their patients stayed in hospital, from a 4.5-fold difference to 2.5-fold. This means there was greater similarity in length of stay over the country.

Though there was no significant change in the country overall in the four years, there was a difference of 4.5- to 5-fold between DHBs in the numbers of people who made unplanned returns to hospital within 28 days of being discharged.

The Atlas is an online tool showing variation between health care received by people in different DHBs, and is designed to stimulate debate among health professionals, people who use services and other providers of health services. It aims to encourage changes in practice to reduce unwarranted differences in access to health care, or in health care outcomes.

Ian McKenzie, Manager Regional Forensic Psychiatry Services at Waitemata District Health Board and chair of the sponsors of the Mental Health KPI Framework, from which the data is derived, says mental health care in New Zealand aims to provide services that enable people to return to their community as soon as appropriate.

“The fall in days spent in hospital appears positive and is a useful benchmark to enable further analysis and discussion. However, the differences between DHBs in rates of people returning to acute inpatient care raises questions as to why this is happening.”

For more information about the Atlas of Healthcare Variation, visit

Last updated 02/07/2014