High continuity of care is prized by users of mental health services and lauded in health policy. It is especially important in long-term conditions like schizophrenia. However, it is not routinely measured, and therefore not often evaluated when service reorganisations take place. In addition, the impact of continuity of care on clinical outcomes is unclear.
We set out to examine continuity of care in people with schizophrenia, and to relate this to demographic variables and clinical outcomes.
Pseudoanonymised community data from 5552 individuals with schizophrenia presenting over 11 years were examined for changes in continuity of care using the numbers of community teams caring for them and the Modified Modified Continuity Index (MMCI). These and demographic variables were related to clinical outcomes measured with the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales (HoNOS). Data were analysed using generalised estimating equations and multivariate marginal models.
There was a significant decline in MMCI and significant worsening of HoNOS total scores over 11 years. Higher (worse) HoNOS scores were significantly and independently related to older age, later years and both lower MMCI and more teams caring for the individual in each year. Most HoNOS scales contributed to the higher total scores.
There is evidence of declining continuity of care in this 11-year study of people with schizophrenia, and of an independent effect of this on worse clinical outcomes. We suggest that this is related to reorganisation of services.