OBJECTIVES: To estimate the proportion of psychiatric inpatients receiving primary interventions based on randomised controlled trials or systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials. DESIGN: Retrospective survey. SETTING: Acute adult general psychiatric ward. SUBJECTS: All patients admitted to the ward during a 28 day period. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary interventions were classified according to whether or not they were supported by evidence from randomised controlled trials or systematic reviews. RESULTS: The primary interventions received by 26/40 (65%; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 51% to 79%) of patients admitted during the period were based on randomised trials or systematic reviews. CONCLUSIONS: When patients were used as the denominator, most primary interventions given in acute general psychiatry were based on experimental evidence. The evidence was difficult to locate; there is an urgent need for systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials in this area.
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