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BACKGROUND: Self-harm is an extremely common reason for hospital presentation. However, few estimates have been made of the hospital costs of assessing and treating self-harm. Such information is essential for planning services and to help strengthen the case for investment in actions to reduce the frequency and effects of self-harm. In this study, we aimed to calculate the costs of hospital medical care associated with a self-harm episode and the costs of psychosocial assessment, together with identification of the key drivers of these costs. METHODS: In a retrospective analysis, we estimated hospital resource use and care costs for all presentations for self-harm to the John Radcliffe Hospital (Oxford, UK), between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014. Episode-related data were provided by the Oxford Monitoring System for Self-harm and we linked these with financial hospital records to quantify costs. We assessed time and resources allocated to psychosocial assessments through discussion with clinical and managerial staff. We then used generalised linear models to investigate the associations between hospital costs and methods of self-harm. FINDINGS: Between April 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, 1647 self-harm presentations by 1153 patients were recorded. Of these, 1623 (99%) presentations by 1140 patients could be linked with hospital finance records. 179 (16%) patients were younger than 18 years. 1150 (70%) presentations were for self-poisoning alone, 367 (22%) for self-injury alone, and 130 (8%) for a combination of methods. Psychosocial assessments were made in 75% (1234) of all episodes. The overall mean hospital cost per episode of self-harm was £809. Costs differed significantly between different types of self-harm: self-injury alone £753 (SD 2061), self-poisoning alone £806 (SD 1568), self-poisoning and self-injury £987 (SD 1823; p<0·0001). Costs were mainly associated with the type of health-care service contact such as inpatient stay, intensive care, and psychosocial assessment. Mean costs of psychosocial assessments were £228 for adults and £392 for individuals younger than 18 years. INTERPRETATION: If our findings are extrapolated to England, the estimated overall annual cost of general hospital management of self-harm is £162 million per year. More use of psychosocial assessment and other preventive measures, especially for young people and against self-poisoning, could potentially lower future costs at a time of major cost pressures in the NHS. FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research, Care Oxford at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and Department of Health.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Psychiatry

Publication Date





759 - 767