Background. This study examined variables associated with patients who had a once-only contact with the out-patient department of a Community Mental Health Service (CMHS). Methods. Using the South-Verona Psychiatric Case Register (PCR), an 8-year cohort of patients who had a new episode of care with the out-patient department of the South Verona CMHS was followed up for 3 months after the first contact, to identify those patients who had no further contact with the service. Potential determinants of once-only contact were analysed. Results. A total of 2,446 new episodes of care met the inclusion criteria of the study. Of those, 734 (30%) were once-only contacts with the service. Compared to patients with more than one contact, patients who had a once-only contact were older, more likely to be male, had a lower socio-economic status and less severe psychiatric diagnosis. They were more likely to be referred by consultation/liaison or emergency room. Conclusions. Multivariate analysis revealed that having a less severe psychiatric diagnosis was the most significant determinant of once-only contact with a CMHS. The results suggest that the behaviour of referring agents in selecting patients and preparing them for treatment merits further investigation. © Steinkopff Verlag 2005.
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