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Br J Psychiatry. 1998 May;172:401-5.

Auditing electroconvulsive therapy. The third cycle.

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Royal College of Psychiatrists' Research Unit, London.



This is the third large-scale audit in the past 20 years and compares the practice of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in England and Wales with the standards derived from the Royal College of Psychiatrists' 2nd ECT handbook.


Facilities, equipment practice, personnel and training were systematically evaluated during visits to all ECT clinics in the former North East Thames and East Anglia regions and Wales. All other English ECT clinics were surveyed with a postal questionnaire. Information was obtained for 184 (84%) of the 220 ECT clinics identified.


Although some aspects of ECT administration had improved since the last audit in 1991, overall only one-third of clinics were rated as meeting College standards. Only 16% of responsible consultants attended their ECT clinic weekly and only 6% had sessional time for ECT duties. Fifty-nine per cent of all clinics had machines of the type recommended by the College and 7% were still using machines considered outdated in 1989. Only about one-third of clinics had clear policies to help guide junior doctors to administer ECT effectively.


Twenty years of activity by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and three large-scale audits have been associated with only modest improvement in local practice.

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