Fall in mental health admissions
The number of patients admitted to mental health hospitals in Northern Ireland is on the decrease, figures have revealed.
Over the last five years there has been a 10% drop in admissions, according to the Department of Health.
Last year just under 9,000 people were treated in hospital for mental health issues, 1,000 fewer than in 2005/06.
In the same period, the average length of stay has gone up by seven days, from 47.7 days to 54.4 days.
This rise is in part linked to the drop in admissions. With a greater number of less serious cases being treated outside hospital, those who are admitted tend to have more complex problems and remain in care longer, pushing the average stay up.
Andy Mayhew from mental health charity Praxis Care said the statistics were to be broadly welcomed. "Overall these figures are positive," he said. "Any drop in admissions due to better availability of community-based prevention and crisis response of course is welcome."
But Mr Mayhew said many people were still having to stay in hospital too long as a result of a lack of provision outside. "We know that there are people in hospital that could be discharged if there were more services within the community," he said.
The departmental figures also examined admissions for people with learning disabilities, which fell by more than a quarter in same five-year period (2,387 to 1,779).
The highest average length of stay was in Muckamore Abbey at 651.6 days. Earlier this year health authorities were criticised after it emerged that some of the long-term residents in the Co Antrim facility had been waiting more than 15 years to be resettled in the community.
The average stay for learning disabled patients was 111.2 days in Longstone Hospital, Co Armagh; 76.7 days in Lakeview, Co Derry and 2.1 days in Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast.