Objective: People with schizophrenia face an increased risk of premature death from chronic diseases and injury. This study describes the trajectory of acute care health service use in the last year of life for people with schizophrenia and how this varied with receipt of community based specialist palliative care and morbidity burden.

Method: A population-based retrospective matched cohort study of people who died from 01/01/ 2009 to 31/12/2013 with and without schizophrenia in Western Australia. Hospital inpatient, emergency department, death and community-based care data collections were linked at the person level. Rates of emergency department presentations and hospital admissions over the last year of life were estimated.

Results: Of the 63508 decedents, 1196 (1.9%) had a lifetime history of schizophrenia. After adjusting for confounders and averaging over the last year of life there was no difference in the overall rate of ED presentation between decedents with schizophrenia and the matched cohort (HR 1.09; 95%CI 0.99–1.19). However, amongst the subset of decedents with cancer, choking or intentional self-harm recorded on their death certificate, those with schizophrenia presented to ED more often. Males with schizophrenia had the highest rates of emergency department use in the last year of life. Rates of hospital admission for decedents with schizophrenia were on average half (HR 0.53, 95%CI 0.44–0.65) that of the matched cohort although this varied by cause of death. Of all decedents with cancer, 27.5% of people with schizophrenia accessed community-based specialist palliative care compared to 40.4% of the matched cohort (p<0.001). Rates of hospital admissions for decedents with schizophrenia increased 50% (95% CI: 10%-110%) when enrolled in specialist palliative care.

Conclusion: In the last year of life, people with schizophrenia were less likely to be admitted to hospital and access community-based speciality palliative care, but more likely to attend emergency departments if male. Community-based specialist palliative care was associated with increased rates of hospital admissions.


schizophrenia, acute care health services, emergency departments, morbidity burden, palliative care