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Absconding word cloud
Absconding word cloud


Absconding from acute psychiatric wards can have a range of negative consequences for the patient, their families and staff involved in their care. Absconding incidents are often a result of a patient failing to return from agreed leave or time away from the ward. Quality improvement methodology was used to test and implement an intervention to reduce rates of failure to return to the ward.

Using a definition of late return as failing to return within 10 minutes of the agreed time, the pilot ward revealed a baseline of 30% of patient returning on time. The intervention has been trialled on seven wards in total: recent data shows that five of these wards now have return rates of over 85%. The project has also facilitated a more open discussion between staff and patients about the purpose and value of time away from the ward. Safety in mental health care settings is still an emerging field: our findings demonstrate the quality improvement approaches can be effectively applied in mental health settings.

This project was recently published in BMJ Quality Improvement Reports.

Bailey J., Page B., Ndimande N., Connell J., & Vincent C. Absconding: reducing failure to return in adult mental health ward. BMJ Quality Improvement Report 2016;5. doi:10.1136/bmjquality.u209837.w5117.

For information on the regional programme, see:

Funded by

Patient Safety Collaborative, Oxford Academic Health Science Network

Research team

This project is led by Jill Bailey in collaboration with Bethan Page and Charles Vincent.