Accuracy of risk scales for predicting repeat self-harm and suicide: a multicentre, population-level cohort study using routine clinical data

Posted on 2018-04-25 - 05:00
Abstract Background Risk scales are used widely in the management of patients presenting to hospital following self-harm. However, there is evidence that their diagnostic accuracy in predicting repeat self-harm is limited. Their predictive accuracy in population settings, and in identifying those at highest risk of suicide is not known. Method We compared the predictive accuracy of the Manchester Self-Harm Rule (MSHR), ReACT Self-Harm Rule (ReACT), SAD PERSONS Scale (SPS) and Modified SAD PERSONS Scale (MSPS) in an unselected sample of patients attending hospital following self-harm. Data on 4000 episodes of self-harm presenting to Emergency Departments (ED) between 2010 and 2012 were obtained from four established monitoring systems in England. Episodes were assigned a risk category for each scale and followed up for 6 months. Results The episode-based repeat rate was 28% (1133/4000) and the incidence of suicide was 0.5% (18/3962). The MSHR and ReACT performed with high sensitivity (98% and 94% respectively) and low specificity (15% and 23%). The SPS and the MSPS performed with relatively low sensitivity (24–29% and 9–12% respectively) and high specificity (76–77% and 90%). The area under the curve was 71% for both MSHR and ReACT, 51% for SPS and 49% for MSPS. Differences in predictive accuracy by subgroup were small. The scales were less accurate at predicting suicide than repeat self-harm. Conclusions The scales failed to accurately predict repeat self-harm and suicide. The findings support existing clinical guidance not to use risk classification scales alone to determine treatment or predict future risk.


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BMC Psychiatry


Sarah Steeg
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Deborah Casey
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Duleeka Knipe
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Rory O’Connor
Keith Hawton
David Gunnell
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