Medico-legal reports and gatekeeping: One year of referrals to a forensic service
Larkin, Emmet P.
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Forensic psychiatrists and the services they provide have been subject to recent scrutiny and high public profile. This study examined part of the work of a regional and district forensic service by looking at a one-year cohort of referrals, and the factors contributing to patient admission, including requests for medico-legal reports. The sample consisted of all referrals to the East Midlands Centre for Forensic Mental Health, Leicester from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 1998. Information on referrals was collected retrospectively using a proforma to collate data from referral letters and the reports prepared by assessing clinicians. Two hundred and eighty referrals relating to 260 individuals were received. The sample characteristics were broadly similar to those reported in previous studies. The finding that 70% of those assessed were referred for medico-legal reports by courts or solicitors, and the fact that only 20% of this group finally entered the forensic service, led us to consider whether this work was legitimate use of National Health Service time. We examined this group more closely, and found that referral for a medico-legal report could be considered as a screening test for entry into the forensic services and there are good arguments for this work continuing.