The influence of admission characteristics on outcome: Evidence from a medium secure forensic cohort


Address correspondence to: Prof. Conor Duggan, Section of Forensic Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Triumph Road, Nottingham NG7 2TU, UK. Email:



Outcomes for any mental health service will vary with the characteristics of those admitted as well as with the clinical provision of the service itself. This study aims to explore, for a medium secure forensic service in England, temporal changes in (1) characteristics of those admitted and (2) outcome after discharge and (3) to examine whether such changes are related.


Baseline characteristics and reconviction outcomes were derived from multiple data sources for 550 first admissions to a medium secure forensic unit for a 20-year period. Time to reconviction was examined using Kaplan–Meier analysis and Cox regression.


Over time, severity of admissions increased, as did discharges to prison; discharges to non-secure hospitals reduced. Risk of reconviction increased by 3.9%–4.2% for each year of admission from 1983, which was explained by the increased admission of higher-risk patients.


This medium secure service admitted patients with increasing levels of risk; reoffending rates reflect admission characteristics. Service funding decisions should take account of the characteristics of those admitted.

Significant outcomes

  • This study indicates that the profile of patients admitted over a 20-year period increased in severity.
  • Over time, reconviction after discharge occurred earlier after release.
  • This increase in reconviction was explained by the type of patient admitted.


  • Examination of a cohort from a single medium secure unit limits the generalizability of the findings.
  • The study focuses on a criminological outcome measure (i.e. reconviction); other domains may be equally relevant (e.g. the relief of psychological distress).
  • Examining an entire series of admissions introduces heterogeneity by, for example, considering the outcome of men and women together. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.