Sending postcards to patients treated in hospital for self-poisoning can significantly reduce the readmission rate, according to a study published online by the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Researchers studied 772 participants who had been admitted after self-poisoning. After discharge from hospital, 378 participants received a postcard intervention.
Eight postcards containing messages of support were sent to the participants in sealed envelopes over a 12-month period. The other 394 control participants did not receive postcards.
After five years, there were 484 self-poisoning readmissions to the general hospital in the control group and 252 in the intervention group.
The total duration of self-poisoning readmissions to general hospital was 641 bed days for the control group and 335 days for the intervention group – a difference of 306 days.
Lead researcher Professor Gregory Carter, from the University of Newcastle in Australia, said: “Our study shows that a low-cost postcard intervention continued to be effective over five years in reducing repeat episodes of self-poisoning and hospital admissions.
“We found that the intervention halved the number of self-poisoning events and reduced psychiatric admissions by a third after five years.”
He added: “As well as having huge benefits for patients, this intervention led to substantial cost savings in general hospital and psychiatric hospital bed days.”